The doctrine of Hymanaeus and Philetus is by Paul called profane and idle babblings, -empty chatter that leads to more ungodliness. Their doctrine involved eschatology, the study of last things. Thus, eschatology is linked to godly behavior. When the message is skewed as that of Hymanaeus and Philetus, it leads to the opposite, ungodliness.
The error of these two men is not readily apparent to the average reader. Why? It is because most approach the scriptures with a futuristic eschatological view. In other words, most believe that the events of the “last days, " are presently unfolding in our lifetime. Therefore to encounter a passage which condemns a teaching that says the resurrection, hence last days events are past, is to them, transparently false.
The cause of the misapplication of the teaching of Hymanaeus and Philetus is a failure to appreciate the temporal reference, the historical setting and the immediate and remote contexts of the text. Let’s briefly consider them in order.
The nature of the error is not that the resurrection was past. Paul’s concern with their doctrine was that they were saying the resurrection was past already. The temporal or chronological point of reference is the first century, during the ministry of the apostles. They taught that the resurrection was “at hand" near and about to come, (Acts 17:30, 31; Romans 13:11, 12, 1 Peter 4:5). Thus, the Hymanaean heresy contradicted the message of the apostles. The resurrection could not be “at hand" or imminent if it was in fact past already.
A similar teaching had occurred some 14 to 18 years earlier in Thessalonica. Many in the church had stopped working because they believed that the day of Christ, i. e. second coming of the Lord had arrived and was already present. That time was A. D. 50, 51, (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
Paul responded by telling them that the day of the Lord had not yet come. He also gave them two unmistakeable signs that would leave them without doubt as to its arrival. One, there would come “the apostasy" or “falling away first" of many in the church. Secondly, the man of sin would be revealed. " Thus, they had two events to experience before they could conclude that Christ had come. As before, the apostles continued to teach that the coming of the Lord was “at hand. " (see part 2)
William Bell, Jr. , is a popular speaker on covenant eschatology and the author of the book, The Re-Examination, a study of the last days, the coming of Christ. Visit website at http://www.allthingsfulfilled.com Hear studies in eschatology via the internet: http://www.live365.com/stations/homebizradio?play