Didn't Jesus simply rise in a non-physical, spirit form?

by Matt Slick

Some people say that Jesus' resurrection was not physical but a spirit form. Groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses hold to this. But, the Bible teaches that the resurrection of Jesus was physical, not simply spiritual. In John 2:19-21, Jesus said:

"'Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.' The Jews, therefore, said, 'It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?' But He was speaking of the temple of his body."  

Notice that Jesus was speaking of His body. The Apostle John gives the commentary that Jesus was prophesying that His physical body would be raised from the dead. Is this what happened?

After Jesus' resurrection, He appeared to Thomas."Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing,'" (John 20:27). Notice that Jesus still retained the hole in His side where He was pierced during the crucifixion: "But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water" (John 19:34).   This clearly shows that Jesus retained the wounds in His body. The only way this is possible is if He was raised from the dead physically.

But some people refer to 1 Cor. 15:44 that says, "it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." They conclude that Jesus was raised in a spiritual form, not a physical one. But, the truth is that He was raised physically. His body was a glorified body. It was the same body, but it was slightly different. That is, His body was raised physically, but it had been glorified. It had been changed. If we look at the context of the verse, we see that Paul is repeatedly stating that the thing that is sown is also the thing that is raised. 

"So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body," (1 Cor. 15:42-44).

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God

The Bible says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). If this is so, then how could a physical body have been raised? The answer is simple. After His resurrection, Jesus said, "Touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). You must note that Jesus did not say, "flesh and blood." He said, "flesh and bones." This is because Jesus’ blood was shed on the cross. The life is in the blood, and it is the blood that cleanses from sin: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul," (Lev. 17:11). See also, Gen. 9:4; Deut. 12:23; and John 6:53-54. Jesus was pointing out that He was different. He had a body but not a body of flesh and blood. It was flesh and bones. I am of the opinion that Jesus' body had no functioning blood in it. Remember, after the resurrection, He still retained the wounds in His hands, feet, and side. But, His blood was the thing that cleanses us of our sins: "but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin," (1 John 1:7). His body was raised, but it had no blood flowing through its veins. It was a glorified, physical body.

This explains why Paul said in Col. 2:9, "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." And also, 1 Tim. 2:5 that says, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." In these two verses, written after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, Jesus is said to be in bodily form and also to be a man. How could He be in bodily form and be a man if He does not have a body of flesh and bones?

Therefore, Jesus rose from the dead in a physical body.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.