Jesus raised as a spirit after He died or was He bodily
raised from the dead?"
"Christ was not raised in a fleshly body. His old
earthly body that died on the cross was no more. In fact,
the Bible says that the last Adam became a life-giving
spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). The Scriptures also say that flesh
and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (v. 50).
Therefore, Jesus must have been raised as a spirit person
after He died on the cross."
The classic view of the so-called "Jehovahs Witnesses" is
that Jesus is a "spirit" at present and that he
has a "spiritual body." One of their official writings
states: "Jesus was raised to life as an invisible
spirit. He did not take up again that body in
which he had been killed as a human sacrifice to God" (Let
Your Name Be Sanctified, p. 266). Further, Jesus "was
not raised out of the grave a human creature, but he was
raised a spirit" (Let God Be True, p. 272).
Again, "This firstborn from the dead was raised from
the grave, not a human creature, but a spirit" (p.
Since the Witnesses do believe that Jesus was merely a "human
creature" during His earthly life, they believe that
when he died, He ceased to exist. They assert: "It is
clearly seen that even the man Christ Jesus was mortal. He
did not have an immortal soul: Jesus, the human soul, died"(Let
God Be True, p. 71). What do they mean by Christs
death? "At death mans spirit, his life-force,
which is sustained by breathing, goes out. It
no longer exists. . . . When they are dead, both humans
and animals are in this same state of complete unconsciousness.
. . . That the soul lives on after death is a lie started
by the Devil"(You Can Live Forever in Paradise on
Earth, p. 77). When Jesus died, therefore, what was His
state? "The human soul ceases to exist at death" (Jehovahs
Witnesses in the Twentieth Century). Jesus ceased to
exist when He died!
Witnesses also teach that Jesus is no longer a man. You
Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth states, "Having
given up his flesh for the life of the world, Christ could
never take it gain and become a man once more" (p.
143). The Witnesses seem firm in this conviction that Jesus
is not a man and not human (while also denying that he
is deity): "Jehovah God raised him from the
dead, not as a human Son, but as
a mighty immortal spirit Son. . . . For forty days
after that he materialized, as angels before him had
done, to show himself alive to his disciples" (Let
God Be True, p. 40). The angels, of course, never became
flesh and blood as Jesus did through the virgin conception.
They were merely spirit creatures who materialized on occasion
to do Gods will (cf. Heb. 1:14). Witnesses think
that Jesus appearances are similar: "Usually
they could not at first tell it was Jesus, for he appeared in
different bodies. He appeared and disappeared just
as angels had done, because he was resurrected as a spirit
creature. Only because Thomas would not believe did
Jesus appear in a body like that in which he had died" (From
Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, p. 144). Did Jesus
appear in the same bodyor only in a body "like" that
which had died?
What happened to Christs body after it was buried?
The Witnesses answer: "Jehovah saw fit to remove
Jesus body, even as he had done before with Moses body.
(Deuteronomy 34:5, 6) Also, if the body had been left in
the tomb, Jesus disciples could not have understood
that he had been raised from the dead, since at that time
they did not fully appreciate spiritual things" (p.
144). In other words, if God had left Jesus dead body
in the tomb, the disciples would have been tempted to believe
that Jesus had not been raised from the dead! The teaching
of Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Witness movement,
speculated further: "Our Lords human body . .
. did not decay or corrupt. . . . Whether it was dissolved
into gases or whether it is still preserved somewhere . .
. no one knows" (Studies in the Scriptures,
Not only was Jesus human body not resurrected, according
to the Witnesses, but "Jesus did not take his human
body to heaven to be forever a man in heaven" (Let
God Be True, p. 41). You are reading exactly what the
Witnesses believe: Jesus human body was not resurrected
and did not ascend to heaven. One further quotation: "Having
given up his flesh for the life of the world, Christ could
never take it again and become a man once more. For that
basic reason his return could never be in the human body
that he sacrificed once for all time" (You Can
Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, p. 143).
From these quotations, we can learn something of the teaching
of the so-called "Jehovahs Witnesses" regarding
the resurrection and related matters:
- Jesus was a man on earth who ceased to exist when He
- Jesus was no longer a man, no longer a human being,
after His so-called resurrection.
- The body of Jesus (the body in which He lived
and died) was not resurrected but God "removed" the body
as He did Moses body.
- Jesus did not appear in the same body in which He died.
- Jesus did not ascend to heaven in his human body.
- Jesus is now merely a "spirit" and has a "spirit" body.
- Jesus appearances are similar to appearances
We believe that these points fairly represent the Witness
teaching about Jesus so-called resurrection from the
dead. We say "so-called" since it is clear that
they do not really believe in Christs resurrection,
but in a form of re-creation. They believe
that Jesus ceased to exist for three days and his human body
was disposed of in some manner, after which He was re-created and
came forth as a spirit who would materialize and
appear to various ones, not as a man but as a spirit who
was a god. What does Scripture say about these teachings?
Notice some of the truths of Scripture:
First, Jesus was raised with a glorified physical
body. The Lord appeared to His disciples on the
night of the resurrection and invited them with these
words: "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 24:39).
Jesus resurrection body had "flesh" and "bones" and
He specifically said that He was not a "spirit." He
proved the nature of His body by asking, "Have you
anything here to eat?" The record then states: "They
gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and
ate it before them" (vv. 41-43). When Peter preached
to the household of Cornelius, he said that Jesus had
appeared to chosen witnesses "who ate and drank with
Him after He arose from the dead" (Acts 10:41) (See
also Luke 24:30; John 21:12,13.) Christs resurrection
body was capable of physical functions, although apparently
not needing physical sustenance.
Our Lord had a body that could be touched and handled.
When He appeared to Mary Magdalene in the Garden, this devoted
woman touched Him and He replied, "Stop clinging to
Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father"(John
20:17). When the women were on their way to tell the disciples
about the empty tomb, Jesus met them on the way. The record
says that "they came up and took hold of His feet and
worshipped Him" (Matt. 28:9). John the apostle says, "We
have looked at and touched with our hands" (1
John 1:1). Christs body was not immaterial. While this
glorified body could appear and disappear at will (cf. Luke
24:31, 36; John 20:19, 26), when Jesus did appear, His body
could be seen, felt, and touched.
Second, Jesus appeared in the same body in which He
died. God did not have to recreate His
body; He simply resurrected the same body. The
description of the resurrection scene makes it clear
that Christs own body that had been wrapped in
the burial clothes had been raised to life (cf. Luke
24:12; John 20:4-9). Paul refers to "the body of
His glory" (Phil. 3:21), but this glorified body
was still Christs body, the body that was crucified
for our sins. When Jesus cleansed the temple at the beginning
of His ministry, He affirmed, "Destroy this temple,
and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19).
John then explains, "He was speaking of the temple
of His body" (v. 21). Jesus, in effect, says that
if the Jews "destroy" the temple of His body
through crucifixion, He will raise "it" (His
body) up. He will resurrect His body from the grave!
He makes a similar argument at John 10:17-18. The very
body that Jesus offered up for our sins would be laid
in a tomb and would come forth from that tomb as a resurrected,
glorified body. The idea that God "removed" Jesus body
from the tomb and disposed of it or the idea that Jesus body "dissolved
into gasses" or is "preserved" somewhere
on earth is a clear denial of the bodily resurrection
of the Son of God!
It is clear that Jesus appeared in the same body
in which He died. He told Thomas, "Reach here with your
finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put
it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing"(John
20:27; cf. vv. 24-26; Luke 24:39). The apostles saw the very
wound marks in Jesus bodytestifying to the fact
that Jesus Himself was standing before them with the same
body in which He died. John the apostle later wrote of "what
we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked
at and touched with our hands, concerning
the Word of Life" (1 John 1:1). Jesus was no mere spiritual,
immaterial being, but could show His disciples His bodily
Third, Jesus was raised as a man. It is quite
clear that Jesus continues to be a man, a human being (while
also existing as deity). Paul says, "There is
one God, and one mediator also between God and man, the man Christ
Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus is called "the second man" (1
Cor. 15:47). He further says, "Since by a man [Adam]
came death, by a man [Christ] also came the resurrection
of the dead" (15:21). In vision, John the apostle saw "one
like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the
feet," an obvious reference to Christ Jesus (Rev. 1:13).
The Lord Jesus was born as a man and will continue as a man
through all eternity. The does not deny the fact that He "was
declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from
the dead" (Rom. 1:4).
Fourth, Jesus ascended to heaven in His resurrection
body. Not only did Jesus rise from the dead in
the same crucified body, but He ascended to the Father
in heaven with that same glorified body. Luke says that
Jesus led His disciples as far as Bethany, and "He
lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing
them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven" (24:50-51;
cf. Mark 16:19). The same scene is given in Acts 1. After
Jesus spoke to them, "He was lifted up while they
were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their
sight" (v. 9). The same Jesus, in bodily form, will
one day return for His own. The angels told the disciples, "This
Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will
come in just the same way as you have watched Him go
into heaven" (v. 11). Christ was resurrected in
a glorified human body, He ascended to heaven with that
same body, and He will return one day with the same glorified
Fifth, Jesus no longer has a mortal, perishable, earthly
body. Paul speaks about the resurrection of Christ
in 1 Corinthians 15 and points out that just as Christ
rose from the dead, so we will rise from the dead. "Now
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits
of those who are asleep" (v. 20). The apostle compares
the pre-resurrection body with the post-resurrection
body in this way:
|Earthly body (vv. 40, 47,
||Heavenly body (vv. 40, 47,
|Perishable body (vv. 42, 53,
||Imperishable body (vv. 42,
52, 53, 54)
|Body of dishonor (v. 43)
||Body of glory (v. 43)
|Body of weakness (v. 43)
||Body of power (v. 43)
|Natural body (vv. 44, 46)
||Spiritual body (vv. 44, 46)
|Mortal body (vv. 53, 54)
||Immortal body (vv. 53, 54)
With this in mind we should understand the statement that "the
last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).
As spirit, Jesus also had a body, a body of glory (Phil.
3:21). The "spiritual body" that Christ had when
He was raised from death and the spiritual body that we will
have at the resurrection is not an immaterial body,
but a body that is no longer subject to death and decay (1
Cor. 15:44). Further, when Paul says that "flesh and
blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50),
He must mean that that which is mortal, earthly, and perishable cannot
inherit Gods kingdom. "Flesh and blood" can
simply mean mortal man, as a comparison with Jesus words
at Matthew 16:17 reveals: "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,
because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you,
but My Father who is in heaven." Therefore, mortal man
cannot inherit Gods kingdombut man, resurrected
with an immortal body, can enter His kingdom. 1 Corinthians
15:50b bears out this understanding. After saying that flesh
and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, Paul says, "nor
does the perishable inherit the imperishable." In other
words, "flesh and blood" stands for the "perishable" and
the kingdom of God stands for the "imperishable." Our
perishable bodies will not inherit Gods kingdom, but
we will have resurrected, glorified, immortal, spiritual,
and heavenly bodies that will inherit Gods kingdom.
It is significant that the idea of a "spiritual" body
(1 Cor. 15:44) does not necessarily mean an immaterial or invisible body
any more than one who is "spiritual" now is in
an immaterial form and invisible to our sight
(1 Cor. 2:15).
How important is Christs Resurrection?
While some people may simply dismiss this question as inconsequential,
Scripture says that Christs resurrection is essential for
our eternal salvation. Paul declared, "If you confess
with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that
God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for
with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness,
and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation"(Rom.
10:9-10). Did God raise Jesus from the dead? Yes. In order
to be saved from our sins, we must believe in this
fundamental fact of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-11). If Christ
did not literally rise from the dead, we are hopeless: "If
Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you
are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17; cf. vv. 12-22).
If Jesus body merely dissolved into gasses or if God
simply "removed" His body to some unknown location
on earth, we will perish in our sins!
Let us we willing to "exhort in sound doctrine" and "refute those
who contradict" this sound doctrine concerning the resurrection
of Christ Jesus (Titus 1:9). Let us not only believe that
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, but
also believe that He was raised on the third day according
to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). This is the only
faith that saves.