PMW 2023-016 Geerhardus Vos
This insightful article is a section of a longer study by Geerhardus Vos which is found in Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation available at P & R Publishing. Its original title is “Paul’s Eschatological Concept of the Spirit.” This is slightly edited to break up long sentences and paragraphs into smaller sizes and to replace Greek characters with English transliterations
In 2 Corinthians 5:5 Paul declares that God has prepared him for the eternal state in the new heavenly body, as may be seen from this that he gave him the arrbon to pneumatos. The arrabon consists in the Spirit. “Of the Spirit” is epexegetical, just as in Galatians 3:14 the epaggelia to pneumatos to pneumatos means the promised thing consisting in the Spirit. But the Spirit possesses this significance of an arrabon because it is a preliminary installment of what in its fullness will be received hereafter. The analogous conception of the aparche to pneumatos, Romans 8:23, proves this. The figure of the arrabon itself implies this relation no less than that of the aparche for it means “money which in purchases is given as a pledge that the full amount will be subsequently paid.”
In this instance, therefore, the Spirit is viewed as pertaining specifically to the future life. In fact, as constituting the substantial make-up of this life. And the present possession of the Spirit by the believer is regarded in the light of an anticipation. The Spirit’s proper sphere is according to this the world to come. From there he projects himself into the present, and becomes a prophecy of himself in his eschatological operation.
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Undoubtedly more statements to the same effect would be found. Except for the circumstance that it was more natural for the Apostle to express the idea in connection with the eschatological life of Christ, as already a present reality, than in connection with the eschatological state of believers, which still lies in the future.
We, therefore, inquire in the second place to what extent eschatological side-lights fall on the resurrection and the resurrection-life of Christ. We begin with Romans 1:4. Here, we read that Christ was horistheis huios theou en dunamei kata pneuma hagiosunes ex anastaseos nekron. The statement stands in close parallelism to verse 3 tou genomenou ek spermatos Dauid kata sarka. The following members correspond to each other in the two clauses:
Rom. 1:3 and Rom. 1:4
genomenos = oristheis
Kata sarka = kata pneuma hagiosunes
ek spermatos Dauid = ex anastaseos nekron
The reference is not to two coexisting sides in the constitution of the Saviour. Rather it is to two successive stages in his life. There was first a genesthai kata sarka, then a horisthenai kata pneuma. The two prepositional phrases have adverbial force. They describe the mode of the process, yet so as to throw emphasis rather on the result than on the initial act: Christ came into being as to his sarkic (“fleshly”) existence, and he was introduced by horismos (“declared”) into his pneumatic existence.
The horizein (“declared”) is not an abstract determination, but an effectual appointment. Paul obviously avoids the repetition of genomenou (“came, was born”) not for rhetorical reasons only. Rather, because it might have suggested, even before the reading of the whole sentence could correct it, a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding that at the resurrection the divine sonship of Christ as such first originated. Whereas the Apostle merely meant to affirm this late temporal origin of the divine sonship en dunamei (“in power”), the sonship as such reaching back into the state of pre-existence.
By the twofold kata (“according to”) the mode of each state of existence is contrasted; by the twofold ek (“from”) the origin of each. Thus the existence kata sarka (“according to the flesh”) originated “from the seed of David.” Whereas the existence kata pneuma (according to the Spirit”) originated “out of resurrection from the dead.”
The point of importance for our present purpose lies in this last contrast. How can resurrection from the dead be the counterpart of an issue from the seed of David? There are in the Pauline world of thought but two answers to this question, and both will have to be combined in the present instance.
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First, the resurrection is to Paul the beginning of a new status of sonship. Hence, as Jesus derived his sonship kata sarka (“according to the flesh”) from the seed of David, he can be said to have derived his divine-sonship-in-power from the resurrection. The implication is that the one working in the resurrection is God: it is his seed that supernaturally begets the higher sonship. And in all probability the Genitive hagiosunes (“of holiness”) which is added to “Spirit,” is meant as a designation of God from the point of view of his specific deity, sharply distinguishing him as such from David.
Still, all this might have been expressed by Paul writing “effectually appointed according to the Spirit of Holiness the Son in power of God who raises the dead.” That, instead of doing this, he writes ek anastaseos nekron (“by resurrection of the dead”) must be explained from a second motive. He wished to contrast the resurrection-process in a broad generic way with the processes of this natural life. The resurrection is characteristic of the beginning of a new order of things, as sarkic birth is characteristic of an older order of things. Thus, what stands before the Apostle’s mind is the contrast between the two aeons, for it was a familiar thought to the Jewish theology that the future aeon has its characteristic beginning in the great resurrection-act.
This also will explain why in ek anastaseos nekron both nouns are anarthrous [without definite articles]. Paul is not thinking of the resurrection of Christ as an event. Rather to what happened to Christ in its generic qualitative capacity, as an epoch partaking of a strictly eschatological nature. From resurrection-beginnings, from an eschatological genesis dates the pneumatic state of Christ’s glory which is described as a sonship of God en dunamei.
In 1 Corinthians 15:42–50 the Apostle contrasts the two bodies which belong to the pre-eschatological and the eschatological state respectively. The former is characterized as psuchikon, the latter as pneumatikon. Here therefore, as regards the body, the eschatological state is the state in which the Pneuma rules, impressing upon the body its threefold characteristic of aphtharsia [“incorruptible”], doxa [“glory”], dunamis [“power”] (vv. 42, 43). And over against this, and preceding it, stands the “psychical” body characterized by phthora [“corruptible”], atimia [“dishonorable”], and astheneia [“weakness”].
The proximate reference is to the body and the contrast is between the body in the state of sin and the body in the resurrection-state. It will be noticed, however, that in verses 45 and 46 the Apostle generalizes the antithesis so that it no longer concerns the body exclusively, but concerns the whole state of man. And at the same time, it enlarges the one term of the contrast, that relating to the pre-eschatological period, so as to make it cover no longer the reign of sin, but the order of things established in creation.
To pneumatikon and to psuchikon in verse 46 are generalizing expressions, after which it would be a mistake to supply soma [“body”]. They designate the successive reign of two comprehensive principles in history, two successive world-orders, a first and a second creation, beginning each with an Adam of its own. Even apart from sin these two stand related to each other, as the natural and the supernatural.
This is expressed by the contrast ek ges [“from earth”] and ex ouranou [“from heaven”]. When it is said that the second man is from heaven, this has nothing to do with the original provenience of Christ from heaven. The ex ouranou does not imply a “coming” from heaven, no more than the ek ges implies a coming of Adam from the earth at the first creation. To refer ex ouranou to the coming of Christ out of the state of preëxistence at his incarnation would make Paul contradict himself, for it would reverse the order insisted upon in verse 46. That is, not the pneumatic is first, but the psychical first.
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Besides this, it would make the pneumatic the constitutive principle of the Person of Christ before the incarnation, of which there is no trace elsewhere in Paul. The phrase ex ouranou simply expresses that Christ after a supernatural fashion became “the second man” at the point marked by epeita [“then”]. A “becoming” is affirmed of both Adams, the second as well as the first, for the egeneto in verse 45 belongs to both clauses. How far in either case the subject of which this is affirmed existed before in a different condition is not reflected upon.
The whole tenor of the discussion compels us to think of the resurrection as the moment at which to pneumatikon entered, the second man supernaturally appeared, in the form of to pneumatikon zoopoioun [“a quickening spirit”] inaugurated the eschatological era. But besides identifying the eschatological and the pneumatic, our passage is peculiar in that it most closely identifies the Spirit with Christ. In the preceding passages the Spirit, who works and bears the future life was the Spirit of God. Here it is not merely the Spirit of Christ, but the Spirit which Christ became. And being thus closely and subjectively identified with the risen Christ the Spirit imparts to Christ the life-giving power which is peculiarly the Spirit’s own: the second Adam became not only pneuma zon [“living Spirit”] but pneuma zoopoioun [“life giving Spirit”]. This is of great importance for determining the relation to eschatology of the Christ-worked life in believers, as we shall soon have occasion to show.
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