I have long known of this rather interesting quote tucked away in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. I later reengaged this passage in some detail when I read a former professor’s dissertation which examined the development of the doctrine of immortality in the Church Fathers. Justin, who lived from 106-165 CE, was a highly trained philosopher who later became a prominent Christian teacher in Rome. He was later beheaded for his profession to Christianity.
Concerning the subject regarding what happens at death and the role of the future resurrection, Justin says this:
For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians. –Dialogue with Trypho, 80:9
This statement is rather striking, considering Justin was a Greek philosopher by training before converting to Christianity. Justin argues that those who downplay the future resurrection by saying that souls go to heaven when they die are not to be considered as Christians.
Of course, there is no mention of immortal souls going to heaven anywhere in the Bible, despite the fact that this doctrine is taken for granted by the vast majority of Christians.
One wonders if Justin, the prominent Church Father, would be accepted in most churches today…