Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 12. The Development of Catholic Theology in Conflict with Heresy” Sections 137-158, Loc. 18758-20235.
§ 155. Eschatology, Immortality, and Resurrection.
Schaff opens this section with a detailed bibliography (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19873), classified as general, Greek and Roman, Jewish, and Christian. He emphasizes that Christianity’s meaning is dependent on an adequate view of an eternal future. The Christian faith is built on the hope of resurrection (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19895). Christianity teaches the eternity of the Christian as “absolute certainty, sealed by the resurrection of Christ” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19910). In comparison, Schaff sees the non-Christian religions as giving a “vague and confused” message.
Schaff goes on to describe several of the different philosophies and the level of hope given by each. He demonstrates that “of a resurrection of the body the Greeks and Romans had no conception, except in the form of shades and spectral outlines, which were supposed to surround the disembodied spirits, and to make them to some degree recognizable” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19947).
Jewish doctrine, which developed over time, first gave rather vague hints at eternity, but gradually became more clear. Schaff does find that Jewish thought tended to focus on a gloomy afterlife, similar to Hades, though at times they would consider a separate Paradise (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19970).
The Christian view of the future differs from the pagan and Jewish views. Schaff notes that the Christian doctrine considers an eternal future state as a matter of certainty. The body and soul are together made immortal, with death holding no terror for the Christian. The Christian is promised complete “holiness and happiness” as opposed to the non-Christian, who expects “absolute misery” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19986). This view is articulated in the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, all of which promise a final judgment and resurrection. Schaff also cites the Clementine liturgy, the liturgy of James, and the liturgy of Mark, which all speak of resurrection and judgment (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20004). Questions not answered in these sources are left open to debate, but Schaff finds a resurrection and judgment with a predictable outcome to be central to Christian eschatology.