Rebuttal to JW.ORG: Jesus’ Body—Was It Flesh or Spirit After His Resurrection?

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Last edited on 18/Mar/2020

JW.ORG Part 1

The Bible says that Jesus “was put to death in the flesh but made alive [resurrected] in the spirit.”—1 Peter 3:18; Acts 13:34; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 5:16. Jesus’ own words showed that he would not be resurrected with his flesh-and-blood body.

Biblical Response Part 1

The author begins by demonstrating an incorrect understanding of resurrections, and then by assuming that being “made alive in the spirit” is the equivalent of having a non-physical, “spirit body”. Let’s first look at the definition of the word “resurrect”. The Oxford Dictionary defines “resurrect” as:

1. Restore (a dead person) to life. 2. Revive or revitalize (something that is inactive, disused, or forgotten).¹

In other words, in order for something to be resurrected, it must first be dead, and then made alive again. The author of the article is arguing that Christ’s body, which died, wasn’t made alive again, but that he was rather given another body (a spirit one) to return to the earth in. That is not a resurrection. But what about Christ’s spirit (or soul), then? Because spirits do not die, Christ’s spirit couldn’t have been made alive again, either. Upon death, our spirits leave our bodies and return to the Lord, either to be punished, due to rejecting Jesus, or rewarded, for believing in him, as we await the final day of judgement and resurrection (Luke 16:19–31; Luke  23:43, 46Acts 7:59–60; 2 Corinthians 5:6–9).

According to official Jehovah’s Witness doctrine, upon death, the spirit (or the soul) dies with the body—they are inseparable (in contradiction to the Bible’s teachings). In their own words: “At death a person ceases to exist“.² They also teach that when Jesus died, his body dissolved into gases, never to be seen again.³ So the question remains: If Jesus ceased to exist bodily and spiritually, then what exactly was raised or restored to life? Therefore, even according to their own doctrine, God didn’t raise Jesus again from death, but he instead recreated Michael the Archangel entirely anew as a spirit creature, and then gave him a temporary spirit body to return to the earth in (for the Witnesses falsely believe that Michael is Jesus*).⁴

Whether the soul is immortal or not is beside the point here; either way, the Watch Tower Society denies the resurrection of Jesus. According to the Bible, if any individual or group denies Christ’s resurrection, they are still in their sins, and their faith is futile:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. … 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17)

In regards to Jesus being “made alive in the spirit”, this does not mean that Jesus was given a different, spirit body, as the Witnesses argue, but it could mean one of two things:

  • 1. The “spirit” is actually the “Spirit” with a capital “s”, referring to the Holy Spirit. In this case, it means that Jesus was made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is taught in Romans 8:11, which says: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
  • 2. It could mean that when Jesus was raised, his body was glorified. It was still the same body that he died in, but of a higher degree of glory. This is supported in 1 Corinthians 15:40, which says: “There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.”

Whichever one it could mean, one thing for sure is that the passage definitely does not teach that Jesus came back to life in a different, non-physical, spirit body. The only other similar passage that the author quoted was 1 Corinthians 15:45, which says:

Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)

However, this passage isn’t talking about Jesus’ resurrection. It’s comparing Jesus to the breath of life that God breathed into Adam to make him a living being. In the same way that humans can only stay alive as long as the breath of life is in them, a human can only be spiritually alive if they receive the life-giving atonement that Jesus provided for them on the cross.

JW.ORG Part 2

He said that he would give his “flesh in behalf of the life of the world,” as a ransom for mankind. (John 6:51; Matthew 20:28) If he had taken back his flesh when he was resurrected, he would have canceled that ransom sacrifice. This could not have happened, though, for the Bible says that he sacrificed his flesh and blood “once for all time.”—Hebrews 9:11, 12.

Biblical Response Part 2

The author then argues that because Jesus gave his flesh as a ransom for the world, that if he had “taken it back” when he was raised, the ransom would have been cancelled. The problem with this, is that the Bible does not teach anywhere that if Jesus’ body was raised, the ransom would be cancelled. To the contrary, Jesus’ body had to have been raised in order for it to have been a resurrection. The notion that the ransom would have been cancelled is something that the author has added, simply because it makes sense according to his/her logic. Jesus refutes such worldly logic, by teaching that he would raise himself from the dead in the same body he died in:

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:19–21)

Whenever the Bible refutes our own reasoning or logic, we must accept it as truth, rather than twist it to suit our own logic. Jesus clearly taught that he was raised in the same body he died in. In addition, Jesus directly refutes the notion that he came back in a spirit body when he visited the disciples in Jerusalem:

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 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.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marvelling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:36–43)

Jesus clearly said “Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” He really did come back in the flesh, not as a spirit. Notice how the passage says nothing about him temporarily taking on flesh, or taking on another form, but it simply says that that he appeared to them physically, not as a spirit. Notice also how Jesus showed them his hands and his feet, because in them were still the marks from the nails of his crucifixion (see also John 20:25, 27). This is conclusive proof that Jesus was raised in the same body he died in.

But what about Jesus’ ransom sacrifice? The Bible teaches that Jesus suffered the punishment every sinner in the world deserved by bearing our sins in his body and dying on the cross (Galatians 3:10, 13Hebrews 9:28). Jesus had fulfilled the requirements of the divine law on our behalf through his perfect obedience (Matthew 5:17Romans 5:19), and had satisfied God’s justice by making perfect payment for the world’s sins in our place on the cross (Colossians 2:13–141 Peter 3:18). Nowhere does the Bible teach that Christ’s body would be kept and disposed of by God the Father in order for the ransom to be effective, because Christ had already made complete atonement once and for all by his sacrificial death on the cross (John 19:30; see also Revelation 5:9).

To say that the Father had to keep Jesus’ body or destroy it afterwards in order for his atonement to be effective is blasphemous, because that’s the equivalent of saying that Jesus’ sacrifice in and of itself was not perfect payment. When Christ entered “once for all” into heaven, it’s saying that heaven was the place where he presented his sacrifice to the Father, not that that’s where his body would be kept or destroyed forever.

… he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)

JW.ORG Part 3

If Jesus was raised up with a spirit body, how could his disciples see him?

  • Spirit creatures can take on human form. For example, angels who did this in the past even ate and drank with humans. (Genesis 18:1-8; 19:1-3) However, they still were spirit creatures and could leave the physical realm.—Judges 13:15-21.

Biblical Response Part 3

No response is needed here, because the author has given nothing new to support their argument.

JW.ORG Part 4

  • After his resurrection, Jesus also assumed human form temporarily, just as angels had previously done. As a spirit creature, though, he was able to appear and disappear suddenly. (Luke 24:31; John 20:19, 26) The fleshly bodies that he materialized were not identical from one appearance to the next. Thus, even Jesus’ close friends recognized him only by what he said or did.—Luke 24:30, 31, 35; John 20:14-16; 21:6, 7.

Biblical Response Part 4

Here, the author asserts that Jesus only assumed human form temporarily after his resurrection, but that he was really in a different, non-physical, spirit body. However, as we have noted before, the Bible teaches that Jesus really was resurrected—his body that died really was raised back to life. But did Jesus then lose his body after he ascended into heaven, and become a spirit creature? Not according to the Bible, because Jesus is a man right now. Long after Jesus was raised from the dead, Paul wrote concerning him:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, … (1 Timothy 2:5)

Paul still considered Jesus to be a man after he ascended into heaven. In addition, the Bible says that Jesus had to became a man in every respect in order to become a high priest in God’s service:

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

This clearly teaches that only men can be high priests. Furthermore, because Jesus’ high priesthood continues forever, and he always lives to make intercession for us, Jesus will remain a man forever:

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19–20)

… but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:24–25)

Therefore, Jesus didn’t just “temporarily” appear as a man — he was raised in the same body he died in, and will remain a man forever and ever. Also, the fact that Jesus could appear and disappear suddenly does not in any way prove that he was raised in a different, non-physical, spirit body. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he was in a glorified state. Being in a glorified state, all of his earthly limitations that he had put upon himself when he came into the world through the virgin Mary (Philippians 2:5–7), were now gone. This is more than sufficient to explain why he was able to do this.

Jesus being in a glorified state could also just as easily explain why his disciples didn’t recognise him at first. When Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on the mountain with him and was transfigured before their eyes, his appearance changed, yet this didn’t mean that he somehow had a different, non-physical, “spirit” body:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:1–2)

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”, 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16–18)

He was still in the very same, physical body when he was transfigured. All that happened was that he changed from being in an ordinary state, to a glorified state. The same thing applies to when he was raised from the dead in the same body he died in: he was in a glorified state, and that’s why the disciples didn’t recognise him straight away. He probably wouldn’t have been shining like in the transfiguration, since he seemed like just another person, but there was still something a little different about him. To say anything else is to go beyond what the Word of God actually says, and is unbiblical.

JW.ORG Part 5

  • When Jesus appeared to the apostle Thomas, he took on a body with wound marks. He did this to bolster Thomas’ faith, since Thomas doubted that Jesus had been raised up.—John 20:24-29.

Biblical Response Part 5

Although this may not have been the intent of the author, by making this argument, the author has made Jesus out to be a liar. In the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ narrative, Jesus’ body wasn’t raised back to life, but stayed dead, and was disposed of by God the Father. The Father then recreated Michael the Archangel as a spirit creature. Then, in order to try and convince the disciples that the Father had accepted this ransom, he came back onto the earth in different, temporary bodies, including one that had crucifixion marks, deceiving people into thinking that Jesus’ body really had been raised back up, so that they would believe. This is false.

According to the Bible, however, Jesus was not a liar. Jesus really was raised in the same body that he died in, just like he said (John 2:19–21), and just like the Scriptures prophesied (Luke 24:46). When he showed Thomas the wounds in his hands, feet, and side, he was really showing him the actual wounds in his real body that he had suffered from while on the cross, so that Thomas could know that Jesus really was brought back to life, and that he was not just pretending to use the same body, or that he was some spirit assuming a temporary body, as the disciples mistakenly thought at first in Luke 24:36–43, and as the Witnesses falsely argue.

Conclusion

To answer the question that the author originally posed in the title of his/her article, the Bible’s answer is: Jesus’ body was flesh, because it was resurrected. To resurrect means to restore something that was once dead back to life again. Since the Bible says that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and that he appeared to many people bodily, talking with them, eating food with them, and showing them the marks from the nails in his hands and feet, it is clear that his body, which was once dead, came back to life again. Because the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society denies Christ’s resurrection, it is a non-Christian cult that cannot save anyone.

Notes

* The Bible refutes the idea that Michael the Archangel is Jesus. One of the places in the Bible that teaches this is Hebrews chapter 1. Verses 5 to 9 say:

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” 8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of your kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:5–9)

By saying that God the Father never said to any of the angels “You are my Son”, this is conclusive proof that Jesus is neither an angel nor an archangel, since God does call Jesus his Son. Furthermore, as God’s Son, Jesus receives worship from the angels, meaning that he is equal with God since God also receives worship from the angels.

Rebuttal to the following Jehovah’s Witness article

Jesus’ Body—Was It Flesh or Spirit After His Resurrection?, jw.org, accessed on 14 October 2018, <https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/jesus-body/>

References

1. Resurrect, Oxford Dictionaries, accessed on 14 October 2018, <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/resurrect>

2. Myth 1: The Soul Is Immortal, jw.org, accessed on 14 October 2018, <https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/wp20091101/myth-the-soul-is-immortal/#?insight[search_id]=d45f414a-18a3-45ee-84fd-d5ae6d08c955&insight[search_result_index]=0>

3. Lingle, W 2009, What the Watchtower Society Doesn’t Want You to Know, CLC Publications, PA, pp. 153-154

4. The Archangel Michael—Who Is He?, jw.org, accessed on 18 March 2019, <https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/archangel-michael/>

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