Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.
For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:24-30)
St Methodius (d. ca 311AD) was a bishop of the Church who was writing at a time when Christians and Jews were still actively debating the interpretation of Scriptures as well as whether Jesus is the Messiah. His critique of Jewish beliefs includes his thoughts that because the Jews tend to see and understand current events as pointing back in time to the Torah, they have misread the Scriptures. He argues that the Jewish Scriptures aren’t meant to focus our attention on the past but rather they foreshadowed things which were to happen in the future – in the time of Christ and also in present age of the Church. He sees Jews as taking some current event and then looking back in time through the Scriptures saying, “As it says in the ancient books….” The present is thus nothing more than a type of things in the past. He argues that the Jewish Scriptures are future oriented and point to the future: the coming of the Messiah and the time of the Church. Thus the Scriptures give us hope about the future and what God is now doing and will do in the time to come rather than helping us understand the past.
“Let this then stand as an instance to prove that the Jews, by misinterpreting things present as types of things that are past have foundered their hopes of the good things to come, unwilling as they are that their types should foreshadow images, and that these images should represent the truth. For the Law is a shadow and type of the image, that is to say, of the Gospel; and the image, the Gospel, represents the truth which will be fulfilled at the Second Coming of Christ. Thus the ancients and the Law foretold and prophesied to us the features of the Church, and the Church foretells those of the new order. And we, who have accepted the Christ who said I am the Truth, are aware that the shadows and types have come to an end, and we press on towards the truth, proclaiming it in vivid images. For as yet we know in part, and, as it were, through a glass, for that which is perfect is not yet come to us, the kingdom of heaven and the resurrection, when that which is in part shall be done away.
Then will all our tabernacles be established, when our bodies rise again, their bones once more fixed and compacted with flesh. Then shall we celebrate to the Lord the day of joy in a pure manner, receiving now eternal tabernacles, never more to die or to be dissolved into the earth of the grave.
[One thing worth noting in Methodius is that he clearly believes in a physical resurrection – we will have bones and flesh and will live bodily forever in the coming Kingdom. Some Fathers hedge on this point as they believed Adam was not created with a physical body as we know it, but that only came with the Fall. They prefer an idea found in St Paul that the resurrected body is a spiritual body and not exactly like the physical body we have on earth. This also partly explains the ascetical emphases in their writings as they see our goal is to overcome the limits of the physical body in order to be spiritual beings – angels in the flesh.]
For our tabernacle of old had been firmly made; but it tottered and fell by the Fall. And God put an end to sin by man’s death, lest man become a sinner for all eternity, and, since sin would be living in him, be under eternal condemnation. And this is the reason why man, though he was not made mortal and corruptible, dies and his soul is separated from his body, in order that his transgression might be destroyed by death, being unable to live after he was dead. Thus with sin dead and destroyed, I can rise again in immortality and sing a hymn of praise to God who saves His children from death by means of death; and in accordance with the Law I celebrate the Feast in his honor, adorning the tabernacle of my flesh with good works, just as the prudent virgins there with their five-flamed lamps.” (THE SYMPOSIUM: A TREATISE ON CHASTITY, pp 134-135)