The Bodily Resurrection of Christ

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Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that Jesus was physically raised from the dead, but was rather raised as a mighty spirit creature.

Christ Jesus…was resurrected an invisible spirit creature” (Let God be True, p. 138).

“Jehovah God evidently disposed of Jesus’ fleshy body in his own way (possibly disintegrating it into the atoms of which it was constituted). Jesus did not take back his fleshy body and thereby cancel out the ransom for which it was given…Christ…did materialize various fleshy bodies…” (Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 587).

The “proof texts” they use are:

a) 1 Peter 3:18  “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit”

The key word here is “made alive in the spirit.” It is used in other instances: “groaned in the spirit” (Jn. 11:33), “bound in the spirit” (Acts 20:22), “live in the spirit” (Gal. 5:26) or “I was in the spirit” (Rev. 1:10)

Not once does it mean that one is a spirit creature. Therefore, what 1 Peter 3:18 is saying can be understood from Romans 8:11 which says “…he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies BY HIS SPIRIT…” Jesus was raised by the Spirit of God. The term “in the spirit” simply means “by the [Holy] Spirit.”

b) 1 Corinthians 15:50 “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

The phrase “flesh and blood” is also used in Matthew 16:17, Galatians 1:16 and Ephesians 6:12. In each instance, it is used in a symbolic sense to refer to the natural, old or unregenerate man. The natural man (“flesh and blood”) cannot inherit the kingdom because he needs to be born again or regenerated (John 3:3-6).

In the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, it’s very clear that He rose bodily. In Luke 24:39, He told His disciples “it is I Myself,” that is, He didn’t materialize with different fleshy bodies and He admitted He wasn’t a spirit creature: “handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.”

In Matthew 28:6 and Mark 16:6, it is said “He is risen.” What was risen? Not His spirit or soul, for they didn’t die. Only His body died and the same was resurrected (Zec. 13:6; Acts 1:11).

When the disciples went to the tomb, they didn’t find His body because it was resurrected (Lk. 24:5). The angels asked them “Why seek you the living [body] among the dead [bodies]?” The disciples didn’t go to the tomb seeking to embalm a spirit creature but rather Jesus’ body – and He had risen bodily.

Granted, the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus at a point because they were kept from recognizing him until their eyes were opened (Lk. 24:16). Furthermore, Jesus had a “glorious body” – not an earthly one – which could walk through walls, and His appearance was also different (Phil. 3:21). But to then conclude that He rose as a spirit is absurd.

The Watchtower Society traps itself in a conundrum by denying Jesus’ bodily resurrection. In What Does the Bible Really Teach? they wrote:

When a person dies, he ceases to exist…The life we enjoy is like the flame of a candle. When the flame is put out, it does not go anywhere. It is simply gone” (pp 58-9).

According to this definition, when Jesus died, He simply ceased to exist. Yet in the same book they said: “God resurrected Jesus, but not as human…[He] was alive again as a mighty spirit person! Jesus was the first ever to receive this glorious type of resurrection.” (pp. 73-4).

That is not a resurrection but re-creation. To bring back someone from non-existence is not resurrection. In every instance of resurrection in Scripture, the bodies were made alive again, not the spirit or souls (1 Kings 17:17-24, 2Kings 4:18-37, 13:21, John 11, etc). It’s pure rebellion to argue that Jesus’ case is an exception.

Jesus likened Himself to Jonah who was alive in the fish (Jonah 2:1). He wasn’t “non-existent” after death. And the fact that Jesus is still referred to as “Man” in present tense after His ascension proves He rose bodily (1Tim. 2:5).

In John 2:19-22, Jesus promised to raise His body after death. A good question to ask Witnesses is: who raised Jesus from the dead? The Watchtower Society has given 3 conflicting answers to this question.

1. In their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Romans 10:9 says: “For if you publicly declare…that Jesus is Lord and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved.”

In The Watchtower (June 15, 1994, 6), it was also said: “Rather he [Jesus] lay unconscious in death for three days until God resurrected him.”

2. In The Watchtower (April 15, 1978, 27), however, they quote Jesus saying: “Break down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ John adds: He was talking about the temple of his body.”

3. In The Watchtower June 15, 1966 edition (p 359), we read: “…results of Jehovah God’s spirit in operation: (1) Creation – Genesis 1:2, Psalm 104:30; (2) Birth of Jesus- Matthew 1:18; (3) Resurrection of Jesus – Romans 8:11…”

Since the Watchtower denies the Divine Trinity, why does it say God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit raised up Jesus? Why did they give three different answers to the same question? This is not a problem for we Bible Believing Christians who believe in the Divine Trinity. But for the Watchtower Society, this is a terrible blow against their credibility.

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