In the Bible, some questions seem to allow for differing positions (see Romans 14). However, does 2 Timothy 2:16-18 suggest that whether the resurrection has already happened isn't one of them? Is it a salvation issue, something that is vital to your faith? The passage reads (NKJV, bold emphasis mine):

But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.

Does this suggest that if someone falsely advocates that the resurrection has already happened, they spread cancerous teaching, stray from the truth, and overthrow people's faith? I'm not asking whether full preterism is correct or false; I'm asking if it being false would also make it sinful.

If anyone advocates a theology (such as full preterism) holding that the resurrection has already happened, does 2 Timothy 2:16-18 prohibit Christians from simply agreeing to disagree on this matter?

Related question: In 2 Timothy 2:16 to what false teaching is Paul referring when he says Hymenaeus and Philetus taught that "the resurrection has already happened"?

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    Well, full preterism does teach that the first resurrection described in Revelation 20:4-6 has already occurred, so I don't know...
    – Rajesh
    Jan 14, 2022 at 22:07
  • We need more detail about what Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching. This probably isn't available.
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 14, 2022 at 23:01
  • The theological answer would be that nearly all Christian groups consider full preterism to be a dangerous heresy. But this site should focus on interpreting this passage and whether what Paul teaches also would result in the same determination.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 14, 2022 at 23:42

2 Answers 2


The fact that Paul condemns (in quite strong language) a system of teaching that contained something in common with full preterism, does not condemn full preterism. It is more likely that Paul is condemning gnostism which was, in the middle of the first century just beginning in Christian circles but blossomed into maturity early in the second century and resulted in the Nag Hammadi library of documents.

Paul was apparently quite sensitive about the topic of the resurrection because he spends most of 1 Cor 15 (with quite strong language) developing the doctrine in great detail It is unsurprising that he condemns people who opposed it because it impinges on the centrality of Christ and His resurrection: Christ's resurrection is the firstfruit (1 Cor 15:20, 23) of the great resurrection; and, Christ's resurrection enables the great eschatological resurrection.

Now we should immediately recognize that perfect understanding of theology is NOT a prerequisite for salvation - nobody, no human, has a complete or perfect understanding of such. Therefore, a complete and perfect understanding of the Bible and Christ is not essential for salvation. The matter in this question is how a misunderstanding of the resurrection affects the doctrine of soteriology to such an extent that it makes people lose their faith.

Ellicott writes this:

These early Christian followers of men like Hymenæus and Philetus had much in common with the ascetic Jewish sects of Essenes and Therapeutæ, and especially with the famous Sadducean school, which attracted then so many cultured and wealthy Jews. They opposed, to use Van Oosterzee’s words, “their own sickly idealism to St. Paul’s strong and healthy realism.” Death and resurrection, with these early opponents of St. Paul, were terms which had only a spiritual meaning and application. As Waterland puts it, “They allegorised away the doctrine, and turned all into figures and metaphors.”

We do not have any extant record of exactly what these early heretics, Hymenaeus and Philetus, were teaching. As stated above, there are other theologies that deny the resurrection. In any case, the problem is not the teaching itself as the effect on the adherent - denying the resurrection and making the person lose faith in Christ. Anything that has this effect should be condemned.

I am a little glad that we have no records of what Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching - it does not matter. The important thing for us today is concentrate on what the Bible does say and not what it does not say. In the words of Isa 8:20 -

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

The doctrine of the resurrection is amply attested in Scripture and that is enough for me. Paul's teaching in 1 Cor 15 is clear and is consistent - see appendix below for a summary.

APPENDIX - Resurrection

The Bible teaching on this can be summarized as follows:

  • The source of our eternal life at the resurrection is Jesus and His resurrection. 1 John 5:11, 12, 11:25, Rom 1:4, 6:5, 1 Cor 15:12-21, Phil 3:10, 11, 1 Peter 1:3, 3:21, etc. See also Jesus’ Resurrection.
  • The resurrection of the dead will occur at the end of time when Jesus returns. Matt 22:30, 31, Mark 12:23, Luke 14:14, 20:33-36, John 11:24, 25, 1 Thess 4:16, 17, 1 Cor 15:21, 22, 46-55.
  • There are two resurrections – one of the righteous and the wicked. Rev 20:5, 6, John 5:28, 29, Dan 12:2, Acts 24:15, Heb 11:35. See also Rev 1:7.
  • People receive their rewards at the resurrection, Luke 14:14, Rev 22:12, 13.
  • The righteous receive real, imperishable bodies at the resurrection, albeit different from what we have now; 1 Cor 15:35-54.
  • People are “sleeping” in the grave until awakened by the resurrection, Acts 2:29-31, 34, Matt 9:24, Mark 5:39, Luke 8:52, John 11:11, 12, Acts 7:60, 13:36, 1 Cor 11:30, 15:6, 18, 20, 51, 1 Thess 4:13-15, 5:10, 2 Peter 3:4, Ps 17:15, etc.
  • The teaching about bodily resurrection is also found in the OT; Job 19:25, 26, Isa 26:19, Dan 12:2, 13. See also 1 Sam 2:6, Job 14:14, Ps 17:15, 49:15, Hos 13:14 (which is quoted by Paul in 1 Cor 15:55).
  • Does verse 18 suggest that saying the resurrection already happened is equivalent to straying regarding the truth?
    – The Editor
    Jan 26, 2022 at 17:15
  • @TheEditor - that is what Paul is suggesting, at least in his day.
    – Dottard
    Jan 26, 2022 at 21:14
  • If it was wrong back then to say the resurrection has already happened, what would make it permissible today? Obviously, full preterists would answer, "Because today, it's true that the resurrection already happened!" But barring it being true, what would make it okay today if it wasn't permissible back then?
    – The Editor
    Jan 26, 2022 at 21:51
  • @TheEditor - I am almost certain I do not understand your point here. However, while I believe the great resurrection is (even now) still future, all that can be said about the timing of Paul's statement to Timothy is that is was, then, still future.
    – Dottard
    Jan 26, 2022 at 21:56
  • The passage shows both 1) that the resurrection was future and 2) that to say otherwise was equivalent to straying regarding the truth. Would you agree to that? Perhaps the answer is, "This passage teaches it was both 1) factually incorrect and 2) a salvation issue to claim the resurrection already happened at the time 2 Timothy was written. Whether these facts have changed since then depends on whether factors outside the scope of 2 Timothy 2:16-18 would change such." Would you agree with those thoughts?
    – The Editor
    Jan 27, 2022 at 14:25

The timeline between Paul's penning of the letter and when the fall of Jerusalem actually took place. "1290 days from the taking away of the daily sacrifice to the setting up of the abomination that desolates." Daily stopped 66AD during the rebellion/revolt. Titus, the future 11th king of the 4th kingdom (Rome) was set up outside the temple 70AD, ordered the total dismantling of the temple "every stone off the other that the whole world will know that we are the great power" and declared "imperator" by his soldiers "...blessed are those who wait the 45 more days." "I tell you the truth, this generation shall not pass..." Matthew 23 - the end of the letter. Read it. Read Daniel 7 - the end with focus on chapter 12 and Revelation 1-13. 1st Beast,Titus; 2nd Beast Domitian who had a statue of Titus places in the temple of Jupiter, renamed it the temple of Vespasian and Titus, his father the 10th and brother the 11th kings of Rome. "...causing all to worship the image of the 1st beast" Daniel, John and Jesus all had it perfectly proclaimed. Paul's letter obviously doesn't take Matthew 27:50-53 into account nor could it since it was only penned after Paul's letter to Timothy and Paul's letters (all) were penned prior to the Jewish revolt of 66AD from Rome while incarcerated there and much of that time Timothy was with him. Paul was allegedly martyred by decapitation pre-65AD. I am in the year 2024 and I have no idea what the future holds; but I do not believe in any earthly kingdom or reign of Christ. There is absolutely no mention of that anywhere in the 1st or 2nd Covenants (old or new testaments). That is a fable; not fact.

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    Thank you for your research and input in your answer. However interesting it is, still it does not address the main topic of this Question asked: "salvation." Nor does it deal with the specific verse listed. Try again with this in mind. Keep studying the Bible; it will bring you closer to Jesus!
    – ray grant
    Mar 24 at 22:14

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