(Update: Please note that this study was corrected and expanded under the title: “Acts 24:14 Revisited.” Please see that article for the fuller presentation.)
Acts 24:15 is claimed by hyperpreterists as evidence that Paul expected the eschatological resurrection of the dead to occur soon (in conjunction with the destruction of the temple in AD 70. In the NASB the verse reads:
having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
The supposed evidence for hyperpreterism lies in the phrase “there shall certainly be a resurrection.” Here the Greek words behind “there shall certainly be” is mellein esesthai. Since the base word mello can mean “about to,” this statement is thought to demonstrate that Paul stated that the resurrection is “about to” happen. This is a misreading of Paul. Consider the following:
First, lexically the word mello has several possible meanings. It does not always mean “about to.” According to the Arndt-Gingrich-Danker Lexicon it can mean: “to take place at a future point of time and so to be subsequent to another event, be about to” or “to be inevitable, be destined, inevitable.” Thus, the mere appearance of the word in Acts 24:15 does not demand that it mean “about to” or “soon.” We have to look at other factors to determine its function here.
Second, syntactically when mello appears in the future infinitive (as in Acts 24:15) it indicates certainty. We find samples of this in Josephus, classical Greek, and patristic usage. In the Arndt-Gingrich-Danker Lexicon (p. 500) we read that when mello is used with a future infinitive it “denotes certainty that an event will occur in the future.” That, and nothing more. This is why all the standard translations of the Acts 24:15 do not translate mello as expressing nearness, but simply as a future fact (NIV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, etc.). The NASB (cited above) has an excellent rendering: “having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”
Third, contextually: Paul’s argument in Acts 24 supports this idiomatic usage: he is on trial for his life, having been brought to court by Jews. His clever maneuver is to divide his opponents against themselves: the Pharisees believe in a resurrection of the dead; the Sadducees do not (Acts 23:6-7). Thus, Paul argues for the certainty of the resurrection (by use of this idiomatic expression) and concludes: “For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today” (Acts 24:21). He is not on trail for declaring the resurrection near, but for declaring it at all.
(Note: this article was updated to correct a typo that caused confusion. See the new article: “Acts 24:15 Revisited.” It also expands on the evidence presented in this article.)