Jesus' Resurrection was physical

by Matt Slick

The resurrection of Jesus is a fundamental and essential doctrine of Christianity.  The resurrection of Jesus is so important that without it Christianity is false.  Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:14, "and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain."  Three verses later, in verse 17, he again says, "and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins." Though there are many subjects with which Christians may disagree and still be considered Christian, this is not one of them.  To deny the resurrection of Jesus is to deny the heart of Christianity itself.

However, the problem in the resurrection isn't so much in agreeing that Jesus rose but in how He rose. Unfortunately, cults attack the resurrection of Christ and reinterpret it in different ways thereby denying His physical resurrection.  We must ask if Jesus rose from the dead in the very same body He died in, or did He rise in a spirit body that was not flesh and bones?  The answer to this question is vital.  It separates true Christians from false systems.  Therefore, here is the correct doctrine of Christ's resurrection; I consider it so important that it must be set off by itself as a statement of truth:

"Jesus rose from the dead in the very same physical body in which He died. This resurrected, physical body was a glorified, spiritual body.  The spiritual body is not merely "spirit." The spiritual body is the resurrected, glorified, physical body."

The above-statement is the correct doctrine of scripture.  As such, it stands against the Jehovah's Witness and the Shepherd's Chapel groups that state that Jesus did not rise bodily but spiritually.  Neither group seeks to deny the obvious biblical declaration of Christ's resurrection; but they change the meaning of the resurrection, so that it really didn't happen. Did Jesus rise from the dead in the same physical body in which He died?  Yes!

After the resurrection, Jesus was able to eat (Luke 24:42-43).  He showed people His hands and feet with the nail prints in them (Luke 24:39; John 20:27), and people even grabbed His feet and worshipped Him (Matt. 28:9).  As the reports of Jesus' resurrection were spreading, Thomas, who was doubting the resurrection of Christ, said, "Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." (John 20:25).  Later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said to him, "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).

If Jesus' body had not risen, then He would not have feet and hands with the same holes of the nails of the crucifixion. Consider the following verses as further proof that His very body was raised:

  • "When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."  20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord." (John 20:19-20).
  • "And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  39 "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." (Luke 24:38-39).

It is obvious that Jesus was raised in the same body in which He died--with the same holes in His hands and feet.  We see that Jesus proclaimed He had flesh and bones.  Does a "spirit body" consist of flesh and bones?  Not at all.

I have heard it said that Jesus' physical body died, but His spiritual body was raised.  If this is so, then does the spiritual body consist of flesh and bones as well as the physical one?  It makes no sense.  Also, if Jesus did not rise physically, then what happened to His body?  Was it dissolved? Was it moved somewhere?  There is no biblical account of what happened to Jesus' body other than that it was raised from the dead.  Therefore, His body was raised from the dead.

John 2:19-21

"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).

The phrase "I will raise" is translated from the single Greek word "egeiro."  "Egeiro" is the future, active, indicative, 1st-person singular.  The active voice in Greek designates who is performing the action.  In this case, since it is first person, singular ("I"), Jesus is saying that He Himself would perform the action of the resurrection.  This is precisely what the Greek says.

However, some still deny that Jesus rose from the dead physically--even when examining John 2:19-21.  We can clearly see that Jesus prophesied that He would raise up the temple of His body as is clarified in verse 21 by John the apostle who states that Jesus was speaking of "the temple of his body."  Therefore, this should be conclusive proof that Jesus rose from the dead in the same body in which He died. Clearly, John 2:19-21 shows us that Jesus predicted He would raise His very body--and He did so.  Is this enough to put this issue to rest?  You'd think so but resistance persists.

1 Cor. 15:35, 39, 42-44

35 But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?. . . 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. . . 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

Verse 44 above is used in an attempt to establish the idea that Jesus did not rise physically but spiritually.  Of course, I've already established above that Jesus was raised in the same body He died in--with the same holes in His hands and feet. We also saw that Jesus proclaimed He had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).  Again, does a "spirit body" consist of flesh and bones?  The scripture nowhere declares such a thing.

Paul is not stating that there are two separate bodies to each person, the physical and the spiritual; and that after the physical one dies, the second and different spirit body takes over.  Rather, when referencing the same body, he states, "it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." (v. 44).  The "it" is referring to the same body in both clauses--not separate and different ones.  This same body becomes a resurrected body--which is the spiritual body to which He is referring. In other words, the spiritual body is the very same body he previously had though it had been changed into a spiritual one.

"For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.  54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Cor. 15:53-54).

Our perishable and mortal bodies put on the imperishable and immortal aspects of the spiritual body which is the physically resurrected and changed body of the believer.  Jesus was simply the first fruits of this resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20).  Therefore, we can see that our future resurrected bodies will be spiritual bodies.  But, those spiritual bodies are in fact physical--the same bodies we have now only glorified.  Otherwise, there is no resurrection.

 

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