Jesus’ resurrection

To answer this question, Jesus said, “‘Break down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Therefore the Jews said: ‘This temple was built in forty-six years and will you raise it up in three days? But he was talking about the temple of his body. When, though, he was raised up from the dead, his disciples called to mind that he used to say this; and they believed the Scripture and the saying that Jesus said.’” (John 2:19-22 NWT 1984 Edition)

Despite this simple statement by Jesus himself, that the ‘temple of his body’ would be raised, the Watchtower Society insists that Jesus’ body was not raised from the dead. Instead, they say he was raised as an ‘invisible spirit creature’. 

This passage presents a serious problem for the Watchtower Society as is evidenced in the fact that it is very difficult to find an explanation for John 2:19-22 in all the volumes of their published literature. In addition to this, when asked, ‘What happened to the dead body of Jesus?’, they reply that ‘they do not know.’ It has been suggested by the Watchtower Organization that ‘possibly his body was dissolved into gases’ or ‘preserved as a grand memorial’ of Jesus’ loving sacrifice.

The Watchtower derides the idea that Jesus’ body could have been raised, as is demonstrated in the following quotes, published in the W.T. 73 6/1, pg. 350:

“Could you believe that Jesus Christ, the majestic King of the new world, made higher than all other creatures, would remain in a body of flesh? He would be inferior to a spirit, and far too limited to accomplish the marvelous things required of such a king, among them the destroying of the mighty spirit person, Satan the Devil.”

“A human body requires earthly elements for its continued existence. It is made for the earth and must subsist upon the things produced from the earth.”

However, is this a fair representation of resurrection to immortality? If a body is resurrected from the dead – do the Scriptures say that it remains mortal? We will examine this in more depth.

King David’s Prophecy

King David prophesied of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the Psalms. Psalm 16:9 says, “Therefore my heart does rejoice…Also, my flesh [‘basar’ – ‘flesh, by extension body’] will reside in security. For you will not leave my soul in Sheol. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.” (NWT 1984 Edition)

“So my heart rejoices, my whole being is joyful. And I reside in security. For you will not leave me in the Grave. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.” (NWT 2013 Edition)

We know that this Psalm is an actual prophecy about Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Peter quotes this passage in Acts 2:25-27, saying, “On this account my heart became cheerful and my tongue rejoiced greatly. Moreover even my flesh will reside in hope; because you will not leave my soul in Hades neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption.” (NWT 1984 Edition)

“On this account my heart became cheerful and my tongue rejoiced greatly. And I will reside in hope; because you will not leave me in the Grave, nor will you allow your loyal one to see corruption.” (NWT 2013 Edition)

Both David and the Apostle Peter plainly state that the reason why Jesus’ flesh could ‘reside in hope’. Peter says, “because you will not leave me in the Grave.” David says, “For you will not leave me in the Grave.”

This prophecy is so clear, even the Watchtower admits that David believed and predicted a bodily resurrection of Jesus. 

A Spiritual Body?

Believing that Jesus was resurrected bodily, does not negate that he was ‘put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.’ 1 Peter 3:18. It does not contradict 1 Corinthians 15:44, “It is sown a physical body; it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.” Because as it says in 1 Corinthians 15:53, “For this which is corruptible must PUT ON incorruption, and this which is mortal must PUT ON immortality.”

1 Corinthians 15 is presented by the Watchtower as absolute proof that this is describing a resurrection whereby the actual body is not raised, but remains dead. They say that the individual is raised as an ‘invisible spirit creature’ based on certain statements made by the Apostle Paul in verses 40, 44 and 50: “And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; but the glory of the heavenly bodies is one sort, and that of the earthly bodies is a different sort… It is sown a physical body; it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one… But I tell you this, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, nor does corruption inherit incorruption.”

Yet, the Apostle Paul has based his arguments in 1 Corinthians 15 upon the inspired words of two Hebrew prophets, Isaiah and Hosea, both of which are cross-referenced in the NWT. After finishing his description, the Apostle Paul makes this statement in verse 54, “But when this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: ‘Death is swallowed up forever.’”

Isaiah’s Prophecy

What is this ‘saying’, that was written, which Paul refers to here? It is this direct quote from Isaiah 25:8, which the Watchtower acknowledges in their own cross-reference. Isaiah 25:8 reads, “He will swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces….” 

Paul himself, in quoting Isaiah 25:8, says that the resurrection that will take place is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. When Isaiah penned these words, was he foretelling a non-bodily resurrection from the dead? There is no doubt that when Isaiah says, “He will swallow up death forever”, he himself believed that those who were privileged to experience resurrection to immortality would no longer face death. Isaiah’s prophecy continues on to the next chapter, where he says in Isaiah 26:19, “Your dead will live. My corpses will rise up. Awake and shout joyfully, you residents in the dust! For your dew is as the dew of the morning, and the earth will let those powerless in death come to life.” Isaiah is describing bodily resurrection where ‘death is swallowed up forever’, precisely what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 15. 

Isaiah 26:19 demonstrates that a ‘corpse’ will rise up and be changed. The ‘corpse’ will ‘PUT on immortality’ as it says in 1 Corinthians 15:53. This is language describing an actual change to the body, not the disposal of the body. Paul says the same thing in Romans 8:11, “If, now, the spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will ALSO make YOUR MORTAL BODIES alive through his spirit that resides in you.”

What Happens to Mortal Bodies?

What is the outcome, according to Paul, of the ‘mortal bodies’ of the believers in Rome? Are they disposed of, or changed? Romans 8:11 clearly says that your mortal bodies will be made alive.

Notice how the Watchtower translates verse 23 of Romans 8. “Not only that… while we are earnestly waiting for adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom.” (NWT 2013)

Such a translation conveys the idea that the adopted sons will be separated from the body as ‘invisible spirit creatures’. This would put Romans 8:11, quoted above, in opposition to verse 23, and thus these verses would contradict one another. 

In the Watchtower’s own Kingdom Interlinear, the word-for-word Greek reads, “the release by ransom OF the body”, which doesn’t contradict Romans 8:11. Indeed, when granted immortality, the body is ‘released’ from the bondage of sin that it now experiences. The fact the Watchtower finds it necessary in Romans 8:23 to choose the word ‘from’, as opposed to ‘of’, demonstrates they sense the weakness of their argument.

Other translations appropriately translate verse 23, in support of verse 11, as follows:

“as we wait for our bodies to be set free” Jerusalem Bible

“we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” NRSV

“we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” KJV

“the redemption of our bodies” NIV

“the redemption of our body” NKJV

As we’ve seen, Paul quotes Isaiah 25:8, “then the saying that is written will take place: Death is swallowed up forever,” as the basis of his treatise concerning resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Isaiah then goes on to predict a bodily resurrection in Isaiah 26:19. Paul assures us in Romans 8:11, that “the one who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will ALSO make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit…” So why would this same Apostle say something completely different in Romans 8:23? 

The majority of other Bible translations support the prophecy of Isaiah, by saying the the ‘body’ will be ‘redeemed’, not ‘disposed of’ – as the NWT attempts to convey in its unique translation of this passage.

Why was Jesus Not Recognized in Luke 24?

Yet, the Watchtower will say that Jesus was not recognized by his disciples after he was raised. This, they will say, is proof that he was not raised bodily. Instead, the Watchtower claims that Jesus appeared, or ‘materialized’ in different bodies, simply to show that he was alive. An oft-cited example, is Luke 24:15-16, “Now as they were conversing and discussing these things, Jesus himself approached and began walking with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” (NWT 2013)

In verse 16 of this chapter we are told why they did not recognize him – “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” We are not told that they didn’t recognize him because he was in a different body. Yet, if Jesus had ‘materialized’ in the same body would this not have been the best proof of his resurrection? The fact that the disciples’ eyes were ‘kept’ from recognizing him, shows that God had a reason for doing this. 

So, we see that 1 Corinthians 15 is in perfect harmony with John 2:19-22, Romans 8:11, 23, Psalm 16:9-10, and Isaiah 26:19. The language of 1 Corinthians 15:50 describes a change to the body, not the disposal of the body. Both David and Isaiah were inspired prophets. The Watchtower admits that they both believed in a bodily resurrection. They knew nothing of a so-called ‘heavenly resurrection’ as described by the Watchtower society. Were these inspired prophets of the Old Testament in error? 

Further demonstrating that the resurrected Jesus is not an ‘invisible spirit creature’ that ‘sacrificed his perfect human life’ are the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning his identity. 

He is the seed of Abraham –  Genesis 13:15 and Galatians 3:16

He is the offspring of David –  2 Samuel 7:12 and Acts 2:30

He is the lion of the tribe of Judah – Genesis 49:9-10; Revelation 5:5

After his resurrection, Jesus’ identity did not change. How for example is an ‘invisible spirit creature’ – namely, Michael the Archangel, a descendant of Abraham? Or of the tribe of Judah? Or the offspring of David?

Nowhere in the New Testament, do the Christian writers change the identity of Jesus their Messiah. What has changed – is his nature. Romans 6:9: “For we know that Christ , now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is no longer master over him.” Jesus’ body has been clothed with immortality. He now partakes of God’s nature.

We appeal to all Jehovah’s witnesses to examine the arguments presented here and especially the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5-6:  “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus. Who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all…” At the very end of Revelation the identity of Jesus is still the same as it has always has been.  In chapter 22:16, the immortal Jesus says of himself, “I, Jesus, sent my angel to bear witness to you about these things for the congregations. I am the root and the offspring of David and the bright morning star.” 

We welcome all comments and questions,

Norm Smith

reinodejesus@aol.com

Since Jesus was the first to rise from the dead’ (Acts 26), and he will ‘transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body’ (Phil. 3) – it only makes sense to investigate what happened to Jesus’ earthly body? Was it left behind in the tomb to rot and decay? Was Jesus given immortality at his resurrection, or did he already possess an undying spirit before he was crucified? Does it matter? And is the promise of resurrection crucial to the hope of living forever?

Did Jesus’ Body Rot and Decay?

When Mary came to wrap Jesus’ body with spices – the tomb was empty! The body was gone! (John 20) The linen cloths that had bound his body were lying by themselves – Jesus’ body had been unwrapped. While the disciples were perplexed that they could not find his body, the angels explained, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. (Luke 24:5-6 ESV)

Later, the guards were bribed to say that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body away as they slept. (Matthew 28:11-15) However, Peter clearly lays out the truth of the matter in Acts 2.

Referring to an Old Testament prophecy given to David, Peter says, “… this Jesus… God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, ‘my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption...’ Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:22-32 – Quote from Psalm 16:9-10)

“My Flesh Also will Dwell in Hope”

Psalm 16:9-10, the passage quoted above, is a ‘Messianic’ prophecy. After his resurrection, Jesus explained to his disciples that everything about him was clearly prophesied “in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:25-27, 44-46) God had clearly foretold in the Old Testament what would happen to Jesus’ body. As Peter points out, the Psalm says, “my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption...”

The only part of us that can decay is our mortal body – our ‘flesh’. Jesus’ ‘flesh’ was going to rest in hope – hope of what? Hope of being made alive again! He would not see ‘corruption’. This word ‘corruption’ in Strong’s Concordance has the meaning to ‘decay’. Strong’s personal definition is ‘to rot thoroughly’! Only a mortal body can rot. Jesus’ mortal body did not! If you want to investigate this topic more thoroughly – click here for our Discovery Lesson on Resurrection

“Did not see Corruption”

The Apostle Paul made a similar argument in Acts 13, saying, “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,“‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another Psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.”

The Apostle Paul clearly points out that this Psalm couldn’t be talking about David; they all knew that David ‘fell asleep’ and ‘saw corruption’. But Jesus, did ‘not see corruption’. His mortal body was brought back to life! He is the ‘firstborn from the dead.’ (Colossians 1:18)

The Lineage of Jesus Christ

Why is it important that Jesus’ mortal body be raised? It is very important in order to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus. Truly Jesus was conceived miraculously by God’s Holy Spirit power causing an egg in Mary’s womb to become a child without a man’s involvement, (Luke 1:34-35) and was therefore God’s Son. Yet Jesus’ human lineage was also the subject of several Old Testament prophecies and New Testament commentary. For example, the promise to David, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” (2 Samuel 7:12-14)

Gabriel’s Message

The promise made to David was reiterated in Gabriel’s message to Mary, “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

The New Testament genealogy of Jesus Christ goes through David, Abraham and Adam and Eve – significant individuals who were promised a son that would redeem mankind and bring God’s blessings to the earth. (Luke 3; Genesis 3:15; 12:1-2; 22:15-18; 2 Samuel 7:12-14)

“Descended From David”

After Jesus Christ has gone to heaven, Paul still makes mention of Jesus’ earthly lineage:

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,” (2 Timothy 2:8) and, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:1-3) The earthly lineage of Jesus Christ is very important as it fulfilled personal promises God made to the forefathers.

“This Mortal Body Must Put on Immortality”

From the passages in Acts we see very clearly that Jesus’ mortal body was raised from the dead before corruption set in (as it would on the 4th day) and that he was GIVEN immortality.  We find no promises in the Bible that our mortal bodies will avoid corruption! However, we are told by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:53, that “this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” Our bodies will be raised and then we are given immortality – if God is pleased to give us this incredible gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Perished??

In our investigation of the original Gospel hope, we found that resurrection was the consistent hope of Old and New Testament believers. So much so, that the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, that if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, then “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” 

PERISHED? A true statement, if all the Old Testament believers are in their graves, ‘fast asleep’ awaiting the hope of resurrection. A very confusing statement if those Old Testament believers never really died and are happily enjoying paradise now.

A Greek Fable

Our next blog will consider a Greek fable that crept into early Christianity after Jesus ascended to heaven and is now such an established and cherished belief that few realize it can be easily shown to be false. Some would say, “A false hope is better than no hope at all” – but is it? And if we hold onto a false hope, what other aspects of the true Gospel message will become distorted? God Willing, we will look into this matter primarily from Scripture but also with reference to the historical development of this teaching.

What happens after death? Is there hope we will live again? Or do we never really die – just change forms? Is resurrection even important? Paul says,  if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-18) As much as Jesus’ crucifixion was the sacrifice required for forgiveness – the resurrection of Jesus was also essential for salvation!

Expressed Hope of Believers

In looking at the expressed hope of believers in both Old and New Testaments, resurrection is consistently what was expected and earnestly desired. Job said, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another…” (Job 19:25-27)

In speaking about her dead brother, Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) This was the only hope she expressed!

The FIRST to Rise

But what exactly is resurrection? Paul says that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead, (Acts 26:23) yet several resurrections took place in the Old and New Testaments. In what way was Jesus the FIRST? Is Jesus’ resurrection anything like the resurrection God has promised for us? Does being the FIRST imply that similar resurrections would follow?

In other passages, Jesus is spoken of as being the ‘firstborn from the dead’ and ‘the beginning of God’s creation’ – this seems to imply more to follow. (Rev. 1:5, 3:14, Colossians 1:18) In Romans chapter six we read, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his...  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”

Will Never Die Again

Notice that Paul says in Romans 6 that Jesus ‘will never die again’ – in other words he has been given the eternal life God has promised to believers, “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;” (Romans 2:7 and 6:23)  In all the other resurrections that took place in the Old and New Testaments, people were only resurrected to live and then die again. Jesus Christ was the first to be resurrected to eternal life!

Resurrected like Jesus?

Do we have hope of being resurrected like Jesus was? This was certainly the hope that the Apostle Paul clung to and shared with the Philippians.

“… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead... But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” (Philippians 3:10, 20-21)

A Spiritual Body

Paul’s hope was to have his mortal body become like Jesus’ glorious body! In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes extensively on the hope of resurrection, explaining the supernatural changes that must take place so that we can life forever.

“ Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:49, 52-53)

We all have lived in the natural body, created out of dust, like our great-great-great ancestor Adam, and just like Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. Through Jesus we have hope of becoming transformed, like he was, into an undying body sustained by God’s spirit power.

What Happened to Jesus’ Earthly Body?

Some would believe that a part of us never dies, that immortality is something we all possess from conception. This belief makes resurrection rather redundant, which leads many Christians to question why it’s even necessary. Since we are told Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18), it is helpful to investigate whether a part of him lived on and departed from his body, or whether his earthly body was brought back to life. The Scriptures are very clear on this exciting topic! Our Discovery Lesson on Resurrection gives a wealth of Bible passages to consider and some interesting word studies to aid our investigation.

Our next blog will be “What Happened to Jesus’ Earthly Body?”