How Hymenaeus and Philetus Erred

Paul says, to say the resurrection of the dead is past “subverts the hearers.”

2 Timothy 2:14-18 (KJV) Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.

Those who tell the believing members of “the body of Christ,” of whom Paul writes and is concerned, that the resurrection from the dead (the catching away or rapture, of which only Paul writes) is past, then are subverting the hearers “overthrowing the faith of some.”

Such a false claim distorts the whole of Paul’s dissertation in his 13 epistles concerning the members of “the body of Christ.” Such a claim essentially says “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph 3:2) is over, done with. With that, Israel’s program would restart after having been placed in abeyance during the times of the Gentiles (Rom 11:25) and “the body of Christ.” If that were the case we today would be back in Israel’s program, back under the law with its ordinances.

This account of Hymenaeus and Philetus is an example of the results of such “profane and vain babblings,” as the Apostle calls them, and if the failure to “rightly divide the word of truth.” Hymenaeus is mentioned in 1Tim 1:19-20 as having “made shipwreck” of the faith, and is pronounced guilty of blasphemy. Here in 2Tim 2:16-18 we learn that he and Philetus had both been attracting attention by teaching that the resurrection is past already” (verse 18). We know this must refer to Paul’s teaching of the resurrection of the dead that is yet to come at the rapture, since they all new Christ had already arisen.

Note that they did not deny the resurrection; they misplaced it in the timeline of the events that God has ordained. They did not deny the word of truth; they wrongly divided the word and perverted it. Probably they based their argument on Paul’s own words in passages like Eph 2:5-6 and Col 3:1

Ephesians 2:5-6 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

Anyone reading these passages above in the light of their contexts and of Paul’s writings as a whole, will clearly recognize that the Apostle refers to believer’s spiritual position “in Christ,” not the physical resurrection.

Hymenaeus and Philetus could not have taught this error without an irresponsible use of Paul’s words. As result they “overthrow the faith of some” (verse 18), who now had no “blessed hope” of a bodily resurrection. Not surprisingly, their teachings led to further ungodliness, rather than stemming the tide, for dealing with God’s word in an irresponsible manner and rightly divide it, “eats like a canker (Gr., gangrene).”

Let us than God for verse 19. It is often difficult for us to tell who is truly saved and who is not, and would be especially so in the case of Hymenaeus in the light of 1Tim 1:20. 2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

Thus, it is well that it is not left to us to judge others. We may rest in the fact that “The Lord knoweth them that are his, while rather judging ourselves and making sure that we obey the latter part of this passage; “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”                                                 

(Addressing 2 Timothy 2:14-18 – by Arthur J Licursi with excerpts from Cornelius Stam)