by Matt Slick
The Watchtower organization says that Jesus did not rise from the dead in the same body he died in (You Can Live Forever on Paradise Earth, pp. 143-44). Instead, it says that He rose as a spirit creature and that the material body of Jesus was taken away by God the Father. Therefore, they deny the physical resurrection of Christ. Is this important? Most definitely!
1 Cor. 15:14 says, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain." In other words, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is a waste of time; and we are then still dead in our sins. It is obvious that the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus is a vital and essential element of Christianity but what of the Jehovah's Witnesses? Are they accurate in their assessment of Jesus' resurrection in denying the bodily resurrection but affirming a "spiritual" resurrection? The answer is a definite, "No."
It is obvious from Jesus' own words in John 2:19-21 that He would raise Himself from the dead:
"Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 The Jews therefore said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body."
John 2:19-21 is a clear prophecy of Christ. Note that He said He would raise up "this temple." John the apostle clarifies for us that "this temple" was actually Jesus' physical body. Therefore, Jesus' physical body was raised from the dead. Very simple. However, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe Jesus' own words here.
In order to help you see the error of the Watchtower position and aid you in refuting their arguments, I've compiled the following list of arguments used by the Jehovah's Witnesses to support their position.
1. They use 1 Pet. 3:18 where it says that Christ was "put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" as an attempt to show that Jesus was not raised physically but as a kind of spirit creature.
Their use of the scripture to support their position is incorrect because this verse does not say that He was raised a spirit creature. It says that He was "made alive in the spirit." What does that mean? Quite simply, it means that Jesus was raised in an imperishable body. This is what 1 Cor. 15:35-45 says when it refers to the body as being sown perishable, but raised imperishable; sown in dishonor and raised in glory; sown a natural body and raised a spiritual body, etc. Jesus was the "Last Adam" - a life-giving spirit. Paul is typifying the resurrection body. In this passage Paul is talking about the resurrection of all people. All Christians will be raised in physical bodies. It is said the same of Jesus.
2. The Bible says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:44-50). Therefore, Jesus' physical body could not be raised lest it contradict this verse.
What the Jehovah's Witnesses miss is that 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.
3. The Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus manifested different physical forms in order to convince the disciples that He had been raised.
This is faulty for several reasons. First, it would mean that Jesus was tricking His disciples into believing that His body had been raised when it hadn't. Second, it disregards the clear teaching of Jesus Himself who said His very body would be raised. He said in John 2:19-21, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21But He was speaking of the temple of His body." Jesus said that His body would be raised. The Jehovah's Witnesses clearly deny Jesus' very words. Fourth, 1 Tim. 2:5 says, "For there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." Jesus is said to be a man--in present-tense language. If He was not raised physically, then how could he be a man? He could not be.
4. Jesus manifested different bodies after the resurrection--the same way the angels took human form in the Old Testament in order to show the disciples that He had been raised.
Again, this contradicts what Jesus said in John 2:19-21 that He would raise Himself from the dead . . . physically. Also, Jesus is not an angel contrary to what the Jehovah's Witnesses believe. Jesus was God in flesh (John 8:58; John 1:1,14; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8).
The Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus did not rise from the dead in the same body He died in. This is a dangerous doctrine that contradicts the Bible and condemns those who believe it to eternal destruction because it is denying His physical resurrection which is the proof that He conquered death. The Jehovah's Witnesses need to keep Jesus' own words in mind when He said, "Destroy this temple and in three days, I will raise it up." (John 2:19). Since He was speaking of His body says John in verse 21, then it must be true; Jesus rose from the dead in the same body He died in. Also, at His ascension people watched Him rise to be with the Father. They saw His body ascend. That is why it can be said that Jesus, the man, is the mediator between God and man. (1 Tim. 2:5). It isn't an angel or a spirit creature that is the mediator. It is Jesus the man.