A little book with a long title
We were thinking of dusting our bookshelves - there are a lot of books there which we have inherited and have not read. We came upon a little book with a long title. It was "The Immortality of the Soul or the Resurrection of the Body: The Witness of the New Testament" by Oscar Cullman, published by the Epworth Press in 1958. It is a translation into English of a study in which Professor Cullman disentangled beliefs about the state of the Christian dead, and in so doing had apparently managed to upset a lot of people.
One belief he describes is that of Greek philosophers who lived before Christ, whose views affected Christian teaching. Our body, they say, is only an outer garment, and this prevents our soul from living freely, as it should. So death is a friend which releases our immortal soul, so that it can 'live in conformity with its proper eternal essence'.
Cullman contrasts this with the belief of the first Christians that death is the last enemy, and not a friend. Dead Christians are in an intermediate state, described as 'sleep', and at the resurrection will be given new bodies. This thought distresses those who believe that we go straight to heaven. Cullman surmises that the 'sleep' of death may be like a happy dream, from which we wake in the resurrection to full genuine life.
Because the Holy Spirit dwells in our inner man, we are certain of victory - and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Ever.
It was interesting to find this scholar's thoughts, of which the above is only a sample. His sixty pages contain a clear interpretation of scriptures relating to the dead in Christ. It is now available online! Oscar Cullmann worked at Strasbourg, Basel and Paris, was notable for work in the ecumenical movement, and died aged 96.