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  Christ’s “Physical Resurrection”

 

 

Corinthians 5:7: Gar to pascha hēmōn etuthē Christos, “Indeed the Passover Lamb of us has been sacrificed, Christ.”

 

Theologically, there are two “states” of Christ, which has to do with His “state” or mode of existence as the divine Mediator: His state of Humiliation and Exaltation.[1] His state of humiliation results in the following conditions: 1) the incarnation and birth of Christ, 2) the sufferings of Christ (from birth to death, 3) the death of Christ, 4) the burial of Christ, and 5) the descent of Christ into Hades. Whereas the state of His exaltation results in the following conditions: 1) the resurrection of Christ, 2) the ascension of Christ to the Father, 3) Christ at the Right Hand of God, and 4) the physical return of Christ.

 

 

The State of Exaltation

 

Since this month we will be celebrating the Lord’s resurrection to life, we will focus on the nature of the resurrection. The nature of the resurrection did not consist only in the mere fact that He came to life again. If it meant only that then Jesus could not be called the “first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), or the “firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5). Rather, it consisted of His body and soul/spirit being (in terms of His human nature, not His divine) being restored to immaculate purity and perfection (viz. incorruption). Thus, in this respect, Christ was exalted to higher level than that of before (cf. Phil. 2:9-10); His resurrected body endured a significant change (cf. 1 Cor. 15:44; cf. Matt. 17:1-13). Jesus died and was resurrected, never to die again.  

 

Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, a Four- Fold Significance:

 

1. It proved that He was God (cf. John 2:19-22; 10:17-18). It did not make Him Messiah—it proved He was the Messiah!

 

2. It established that Christ met all the demands of the law as a covenant requirement; ushering in the new covenant.

 

3. It symbolized what will happen to believers in their spiritual birth, justification, and future resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:4-5, 9; 8:11; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:20-22; Col. 2:12), and 

 

4. Jesus’ active obedience throughout His life and His substitutionary cross work is the very cause of our justification and hope (guarantee) of our final resurrection (cf. Rom. 4:25; 5:10; Eph. 1:20; Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:3).

 

 

Evidence

 

I. The terms used to denote Jesus’ resurrection speak strictly of the resurrection of His dead body.

 

II. Christ was resurrected in the same physical body in which He had before He died, and

 

III. There were multiple eyewitness accounts substantiating that Jesus was indeed resurrected in His own physical body.

 

(A): Biblical Meaning of “Resurrection”

 

The specific Greek words anastasis and exanastasis (and egersis, but used once in Matt. 27:53) are the words translated as “resurrection/resurrect.” In Scripture, a resurrection refers exclusively to a bodily resurrection. The JWs’ notion of resurrected spirit is biblically vacant. Thus, when the biblical authors spoke of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in their minds, it was a bodily resurrection (not a “spiritual” one, as the JWs believe).

(B): The Same Body

 

 

I. Personal Pronouns: The NT presents that the body of Jesus that was resurrected and came out of the grave was the same corporeal (physical) body He had before the resurrection. This was confirmed by His own words in Luke 24:38-42. Note Jesus’ use of personal pronouns, which show self-identification:    

 

37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them. . . . 39 ‘See My [mou] hands and My [mou] feet, that it is I Myself [egō eimi autos]; touch Me [me] and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I [eme, “Me”] have.’ 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet (Luke 24:38-40; emphasis added; also, note verses 41-42 showing that Jesus “ate” fish).   

 

II. Sōma “Physical Body”

 

In John 2:19 Jesus clearly prophesied of His own bodily resurrection: “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. . . .’ He was speaking of the temple of His body [sōmatos] (cf. vv. 18-22; emphasis added). The Greek term sōmatos is in reference to His “physical” body. Hence, the words of Christ (esp. “body,” “raise it up”) were clearly understood by the Apostle John and His other disciples (cf. v. 22) that Jesus would rise physically from the grave (cf. Acts 13:33-37).

III. “Remained in the Flesh”

 

The NT teaches that the incarnation of God the Son was perpetual (forever God man). Many passage show this (cf. Mark 14:61-62; John 20:28; Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5; etc.). That Jesus is the two natured (God man) person presently and forever is particularly asserted in 1 & 2 John, where John sharply refutes the philosophy of the gnostics, who denied flesh/matter, thus denying the real incarnation of Christ. In 1 John 4:2, for example, John gives the ultimate the test of orthodoxy: “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come [elēluthota] in the flesh is from God.” The phrase “has come” is from the Greek verb elēluthota, which is the perfect active participle of erchomai. The perfect tense indicates a completed action with continuous effects. Hence, Jesus has come in the flesh (cf. John 1:14; Gal. 4:4) and remains in the flesh for all eternity (the import of the perfect; cf. 2 John 1:7).

 

(C): Eyewitness Accounts

 

Scripture presents personal eyewitness accounts, which fully support the biblical teaching of a physical resurrection. First, the women who were at the grave not only saw His body, but also touched Him (cf. Matt. 28:9-10). Then, “When they [disciples] saw Him, they worshiped Him” (Matt. 28:17). Further, as referenced above, Jesus affirmed that He had risen from the dead in His own physical body “for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). Then, He appeared to more than five hundred people (1 Cor. 15:6).

 

The eyewitness of women, disciples, and over 500 people confirm the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which is adequate evidence that would stand up in any court of law. The disciples saw, interacted, and ate with the risen Lord. When Thomas (the doubting disciple) saw the nail scars on His body, he “said to Him”: ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou (lit., “The Lord of me and the God of me”- John 20:28).[2]

 

Conclusion

 

One of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity is the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ: “If Christ has not been raised,” Paul teaches, “then our preaching is vain, your faith also is in vain . . . we are even found to be false witnesses of God . . . you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:14-15, 17). Believing in the resurrection of Christ is a condition for salvation (cf. Rom. 10:9).

 

In fact, believing in the physical resurrection and perpetual incarnation of Jesus Christ is an absolute condition of salvation (cf. Rom. 10:9; 1 John 4:2-3). Further, Jesus’ resurrection is the chief theme of Acts, as Paul proclaimed:

 

30 But God raised Him from the dead; 31 and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him. . . . 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus. . . . 34 As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay. . . . 37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay (Acts 13:30-31, 33-34, 37).

 

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most attested facts of antiquity verified by incontrovertible evidence: 1) The biblical meaning of “resurrection,” 2) Jesus’ affirmations of possessing a corporeal body after His resurrection, and 3) eyewitness accounts. In addition, there is a wealth of extra–biblical evidence showing that the early church truly believed, not only in a multi-personal God (thus, not a unitarian one), but that Jesus Christ was God incarnate, who died on the cross for sins, was buried, and was resurrected to life on the third day.[3]

 

Because of the resurrection of Christ to life, we too can join Paul and say: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21)—as we await an incomprehensible gain that we will experience immediately following our death.

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. . . .”  Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. . . .  (John 11:25-26; Rev. 1:17-18).

 



[1] For an expanded treatment of the States of Christ as Mediator, see the Systematic Theologies of Louis Berkhof and Robert Reymond.    

[2] Evidently, if the JWs were correct in their view that Christ simply borrowed a body, which was not really His, then, Jesus sure had His disciples duped.

 

 

[3] E.g., Ignatius (c. A.D. 107); in Trallians, 9; Irenaeus (c. A.D. 189); Against Heresies, 1:10:1; cf. also Josephus, in Antiquities, XVIII, chap. III, Sec. 3.