Did Jesus Rise Physically From The Grave?

The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus is absolutely indispensable to the Christian faith (1 Cor. 15:12-19) and failure to understand its character is fraught with potential disaster. While the vast majority of professing Christians would concede this, there are nonetheless subtle ways in which the Jesus’ physical resurrection can be undermined apart from express denial of it. One of these ways would appear to be the notion rampant in early twenty-first century that Jesus’ was transformed when he rose from the grave. It is vital for us to examine the issue, if only relatively briefly.

First, the Psalmist claimed that the Messiah would not see corruption (Ps. 16:10, cf. Acts 13:34-37). The unavoidable inference from this in light of later teaching is that in contrast with God (Rom. 1:23) he was to be by nature both mortal and corruptible, yet, as one who would keep the law and gain life (Lev. 18:5), he would escape permanent death (the wages of sin) and corruption (the normal result of death) (cf. Acts 2:22-24).

Second, Jesus taught that regeneration was the indispensable prelude of entry into the kingdom of God (cf. Gen. 2:17; Rom. 7:9f.). In other words, in order to serve as man’s pioneer to glory (Heb. 2:10-13; 6:20; 12:2), he himself, as one who was born of woman was flesh (Gal. 4:4), had to be born again (John 3:5f., cf. 1 Cor. 15:50).

Third, since he had gained (eternal) life (Mt. 3:13-17), Jesus was able to predict his physical resurrection but not (in as many words) his transformation (John 2:19f.; 10:17f., cf. Mark 9:31, etc.). However, he implies the latter by strongly emphasizing his return to the Father (e.g. John 7:33; 13:1,3; 17:5,24; 20:17). We conclude then that just as he had  undergone an incarnation transformation when he came into the world, so he had to undergo an ascension transformation when he left it (1 Cor. 15:51ff.).

Fourth, the suggestion that Jesus was transformed at his resurrection would seem to be a contradiction in terms. It smacks of evasion, not victory over death. A transformed Jesus is by definition not a physically resurrected Jesus. Bluntly, transformation would appear to eliminate or make redundant physical or fleshly resurrection. This inference is supported by the fact that those who experience decay like David (Acts 2:29) undergo bodily but not fleshly (1 Cor. 15:50) redemption or resurrection transformation (Rom. 8:23, cf. Luke 20:37f.; 1 Cor. 15:42-49; 2 Cor. 5:1) at the general resurrection.

Fifth, the NT proves the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection by asserting that he was seen, heard, touched (e.g. John 20:14-29; 1 John 1:1-3). Otherwise expressed, he was accessible to the physical senses of human beings (contrast 2 Cor. 4:18; Rom. 8:24f.). This being so, we are compelled to conclude that he had not been transformed and glorified (cf. 2 Cor. 5:6-8, pace Bruce, pp.36,228, Stott, p.191).

Sixth, Jesus himself said that he was flesh and bone (Luke 24:39). According to Marshall (p.902), bones are essential to resurrection (cf. Lazarus et al.).

If Jesus had been transformed:

1. He would not have asserted that he was still flesh (Luke 24:39).

2. Paul would not have insisted in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that it is impossible for flesh to enter heaven or the corruptible to inherit the incorruptible. In view of this, we must conclude that the inherently temporary cannot be eternalized or glorified (cf. John 3:5f.; 2 Cor. 4:18).

3. He would not have been visible (2 Cor. 4:18, cf. 5:6-8). Apart from the disciples who are exclusively eyewitnesses prepared beforehand (cf. Acts 10:40f.), Jesus tells Doubting Thomas that those who have not physically seen him are blessed (John 20:29). This clearly implies that they will see him only by faith (cf. Heb. 11:27) in order to be justified and thus gain life in conformity with the gospel (cf. Rom. 1:16f.).

4. In light of his teaching in John 6:25-69, where like the Psalmist (104:14,21) and Job (38:39-41) he underlines the implication of Genesis 1 which is that perishable food is eaten only by the perishable, Jesus would not have eaten with his disciples (John 21:9-14; Luke 24:42f.; Acts 10:41) unless he was intent on deceiving rather than enlightening them.

5. If he had already undergone transformation glorification as many claim, he would not have promised the outpouring of the Spirit after his glorification which clearly took place after his ascension (John 7:39; 16:7). (It would appear that John 20:19-23 is proleptic, anticipatory of Acts 2.)

6. He would not have prayed that his disciples should see his heavenly glory (John 17:5,24).

From this we infer that if he had been transformed, his glory (majesty and splendour) would have been manifest to his disciples here on earth. In the event, they either failed to believe or to recognize him or even mistook him for the gardener. Some glory!

7. He would not have told Mary not to hang on to him because he had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17).

8. He would not have appeared in one (physical) form to the early apostles before his ascension and in another (glorified) form to Paul after it (Acts 9,22,26). When Paul claims to have seen the Lord (1 Cor. 9:1), there is no indication that he ever saw him physically as the earlier apostles had seen him.

9. He would not have appeared different in heaven to John (Rev. 1:12-18; 2:18; 19:11-16). (Stephen’s vision at the point of his death in Acts 7:56 reflects Daniel 7:13.)

Corruption or Decay

In the NT there is a movement from the corruptible creation to the incorruptible heaven, from the natural to the spiritual (John 3:1-8; 1 Cor. 15:46; 1 Pet. 1:3f., cf. 2 Tim. 1:10), from the old covenant to the new covenant, from the temporary and provisional to the eternal and permanent, from the ‘hand-made’ to the ‘not hand-made’ and from the shakable to the unshakable (see espec. Hebrews). That creation is naturally corruptible apart from sin is implied or affirmed by numerous texts like Genesis 1:1; 8:22; Psalm 90:2; 102:25-27; Isaiah 34:4; 51:6; 54:9f.; Matthew 6:19f.; 24:35; 1 Corinthians 7:31; Hebrews 1:10-12; 1 Peter 1:4,7,18,23-25; 1 John 2:17 and so on. (1* It is worth noting that the perishable things of 1 Peter 1:18 are to be equated with the created things of Hebrews 12:27.) So the idea that Adam, who stemmed from the earth (Gen. 2:7), became mortal and corruptible only after he had sinned is an egregious error. Surely what is true is that in contrast with his Maker (Rom. 1:23) he was naturally mortal and corruptible by creation.  If it is replied to this that death is the wages of sin, one cannot but agree (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:56). The point is, however, that though he was naturally corruptible flesh like the sinless perishable animals which are fed on perishable food, he was also made in the image of God and as such able to seek incorruption, honour and glory (Rom. 2:7,10; 1 Pet. 1:7). More specifically, Adam was promised eternal life IF he attained to righteousness by keeping the commandment (Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5, etc.). He failed and all his progeny like him in their turn (Rom. 5:12). But there was one exception, that is, Jesus who alone did not sin (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22, etc.). (2* The traditional order of salvation or ordo salutis, based as it is on the unbiblical notion of original and birth sin, gives priority to regeneration. It is clearly false. See my The Order of SalvationRedemption Applied (Order of Salvation)The Order of Salvation in RomansCart-Before-The-Horse Theology.)


If Jesus was transformed and glorified at his resurrection from the dead, it must be asked why his non-corruption is stressed (Acts 2:27,31; 13:34-37)? Surely, if his flesh did not succumb to decay as flesh normally does after death, we are forced to infer that when he rose, he remained what he was before, that is, corruptible flesh (cf. Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:8) and certainly not transformed or glorified (cf. Luke 8:55). Clearly the reason why he had to ascend is to be found precisely here (John 20:17). Though he had conquered death and was no longer subject to it (Rom. 6:9), as flesh (Luke 24:39) he was still liable to corruption. This being so, it was indispensably necessary for the transformation he had undergone at his incarnation to be counteracted or reversed by re-transformation at his ascension (1 Cor. 15:50ff.). If as man he was to share again the eternal glory of God (John 17:5,24), his corruptible flesh (like the corruptible creation from which it derived, Heb. 1:10-12), had to be subdued and ultimately dispensed with. Only in this way could he lead his fellows into the presence of God (Heb. 2:10-13; 1 Pet. 3:18).

We need also to consider the fact that Paul presents God the Father, in stark contrast with man his hand-made or manufactured creature (Job 10:8; Ps. 119:73), as both incorruptible, that is, not subject to decay (Rom. 1:23; 1 Tim. 1:17), and immortal (1 Tim. 6:16). Regrettably most modern translations erode this distinction and virtually make immortality and incorruptibility synonymous. (3* See e.g. Guthrie, p.130, Mounce, p.61, contrast Vine, pp.131,320). For the sake of clarification, it needs to be added here that the incarnate Jesus gained eternal life by uniquely keeping the law, whereas we, his disciples, gain it by being justified by faith in him. Keeping the commandment or law was the (pre)condition of life made to Adam (Gen. 2:17), and to others like the rich young man (Mt. 19:17), and Paul (Rom. 7:9f.). As one who had kept the commandments and had therefore gained life (Lev. 18:5; Mt. 3:13-17, etc.), Jesus was not liable to death, that is, the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23). So, once he had freely laid down his life for his sheep, death no longer had any hold over him (Acts 2:23f., cf. Rom. 6:9f.; Rev. 1:18). But since he could not live forever and inherit the eternal blessings of David on this temporal corruptible earth (Acts 13:34, cf. Luke 1:32f.; John 18:36), he had of necessity to ascend transformed to heaven to rule at his Father’s side as the paradigm of the saints at the end of history who neither die nor experience physical resurrection (Rev. 3:21, etc.). In case my point is missed, I would stress that Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred on our account not his. Thus, if we ignore his vicarious death, his sinless life was one of ‘natural’ or unhindered, though punctuated, progress to perfection (Mt. 5:48; Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 6:1; 7:28, cf. Phil. 3:14.)

The deduction we necessarily make from this is that the transformation of the incarnate and hence corruptible Jesus on earth is excluded.  If not, his physical resurrection is logically eliminated and rendered redundant and his ascension reduced to mere drama. To express the issue alternatively, since glorified flesh (sarx), as opposed to body (soma, cf. John 17:5,24; Phil. 3:21), is a contradiction in terms (1 Cor. 15:50, cf. John 3:1-8), Jesus’ resurrection transformation made him a ‘ghost’ (Luke 24:39) and not a physical body. In light of the evidence we are compelled to conclude that he was no more transformed at his resurrection than he was when he walked on the sea (Mt. 14:26; Mark 6:49). (It is pertinent to add here that ‘miracles’ like his appearance behind closed doors, John 20:26, were no more significant than were those that occurred to his disciples, Acts 5:19; 12:7-10, etc. They prove nothing except perhaps the fact that Jesus was kept hidden from the world, John 14:22; Acts 10:41. They are minor matters compared with walking on the sea or stilling the storm where transformation is clearly not at issue. On this see e.g. Geisler, pp.215f.)

Jesus and David

Furthermore, we must ask why the resurrection of Jesus is contrasted with that of David in Acts 2 and 13? The answer surely lies in the fact that whereas David underwent corruption, Jesus did not. For the decomposed David, whose death was the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23) like that of the rest of us (Rom. 8:10), a redemption transformation (cf. Rom. 8:23) lay ahead of him at the general resurrection, the fruit of Jesus’ own resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20,23). But for Jesus himself whose defeat of death (1 Cor. 15:54-57; Heb. 2:14f.) was evidenced by his rising uncorrupted (and hence still corruptible flesh) from the grave, transformation, which according to Paul is a universal necessity, had to occur at his ascension like that of the saints at the end of history (1 Cor. 15:51ff., cf. also Enoch and Elijah). It perhaps needs to be added here that various writers note that the term resurrection while used specifically of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead especially in the gospels is frequently used comprehensively to cover resurrection, ascension, exaltation and heavenly session. (4* See e.g. Gaffin in “The Forgotten Christ”, p.213; Harris, Raised Immortal, p.93.)

The Return of Jesus

While many (e.g. premillennialists who apparently hold a la Augustine that sin is the only problem with this world and that he was not transformed even at his ascension) think that Jesus will return to this corruptible earth in the flesh in spite of Acts 13:34, Hebrews 4:14 and 7:26, the NT clearly teaches that, though genuinely human, he will return in the glory of God (Luke 9:26, etc.) or as man glorified. They ignore the fact that from the beginning God intended the development, maturation, perfection or even evolution (cf. e.g. Beale, p.396 n.2) of man made in his image both as individual and community to full maturity (cf. Eph. 4:13), to his own moral and generic likeness (Gen. 3:5; Rom. 8:29; 2 Pet. 1:4, etc.). This intention was uniquely realized in Jesus, the second Adam and representative man. He alone attained to eternal life and achieved the perfection and glory of God (Mt. 5:48; Rom. 2:7,10; 3:23). Having done so, he now sits on the throne of God (Mt. 28:18; Rev. 3:21) as man embodied and glorified in the image and likeness of God (Heb. 1:3, etc.).  But definitely not in corruptible flesh (Rom. 1:23; 1 Cor. 15:50)!

ADDITIONAL NOTE on “The Forgotten Christ” ed. S.Clark, Nottingham, 2007

At the time of writing (Oct. 2008) it seems to be taken so much for granted that Jesus was transformed at his resurrection that scholarly writers do not even attempt to justify the assertion. However, assertion requires substantiation, and this brings me to works like the “The Forgotten Christ” ed. S.Clark, where the authors simply assume what clamours for proof.

It needs to be recognized first that the theology of this work is based on the traditional Augustinian worldview briefly set out by McGowan (p.46, cf. pp.201ff.): creation was originally not merely ‘good’, that is, useful, but perfect like God (cf. p.206); Adam was the covenant head and representative of all his progeny (e.g. pp.195,197); he disobeyed the commandment; universal death and curse ensued (cf. pp.46,51) altering the very constitution of creation including Adam (cf. pp.201ff.), so now on account of sin physical redemption is a necessity. In this scenario, though truly a son of Adam (Luke 3:38) and like his fellows in every respect (Heb. 2:17), Jesus mysteriously avoided the imputation of sin (cf. p.192), and became our Saviour. (5* To refrain from sinning is one thing, cf. John 8:46; 1 Pet. 2:22, but to avoid its imputation is wholly different. The fact that he was God is beside the point. Failure to impute sin to him as a man who was born of a sinful woman, cf. Ps. 51:5, makes him different from, not like, his fellows and hence docetic. See further my essays on original and/or imputed sin.) It is against this basic background that the essayists write, and, not surprisingly, though without adequate evidence, they discover that by postulating without apology the physical transformation of Jesus at his resurrection they can also postulate the redemption of the whole material creation (e.g. pp.158,202,226,230, etc.) to which the NT is clearly opposed (6* See e.g. John 3:1-8; 1 Cor. 15:50; 2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 1:10-12; 6:7f.; 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12 and, I would argue, especially Rom. 8:18-25 on which see my Romans 8:18-25).

To my knowledge the Bible nowhere links the resurrection of Jesus with the redemption of creation (pace e.g. Harris, G to G, pp.245ff.). Rather, man as flesh and spirit reflects cosmological dualism (cf. espec. 1 Cor. 15:47 and my Biblical Dualism). By nature, earth (from which flesh derives) and heaven (from which spirit derives) are even more fundamentally different than proverbial chalk and cheese. The former is God’s footstool and is intended to be man’s (Gen.1:28, cf. John 16:33; Heb. 2:6ff.). It belongs to the temporary present age and, since it has a beginning (Gen.1:1), it is doomed to pass away at its end (Mt. 24:35; Luke 20:34-36, etc.).  The latter is God’s throne and belongs to the eternal age which by definition already exists. For us, however, it is still to come and we still have to enter it (John 3:3,5f.; 1 Cor. 15:50).

It would seem to follow from this that in order to conquer death Jesus had to rise physically from the grave. Since his flesh did not experience the complete corruption (decay) that is the normal and universal consequence of death, it must have remained corruptible. But if so, he then had to be changed at his ascension like all his end-time fellows who neither die nor see corruption (1 Cor. 15:51ff.). Of course, what the writers in “The Forgotten Christ” (e.g. Gaffin, pp.199f.) are saying is that all death and corruptibility stem from sin (Gen. 3:17-19) despite the obvious fact that according to Genesis 1 before the advent of sin God made perishable food for perishable animals (Num. 22:4; Dt. 11:15; 104:14,21; 106:20), which do not sin (cf. John 6:25-69). (7* See further my Death Before Genesis 3.)

The apostle Paul makes it clear beyond reasonable dispute that where there is no law, there is no sin (Rom. 4:15; 5:13; 7:1-25). If this is the case, then death is the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:56) only for those, that is, human beings, who are capable of understanding the law (cf. John 9:41; 15:22,24), which ipso facto excludes little children (Dt. 1:39, etc.) and animals. However, since we know that the latter die, we are forced to infer that death is a natural feature of this temporal creation which was never designed to last forever (Heb. 1:10-12, cf. Rom. 8:18-25, etc.) least of all to be redeemed. It follows from this that Adam did not experience a fall from the perfection, holiness and righteousness that characterize God alone; rather, being a naturally mortal and corruptible creature (cf. Rom. 1:23) made in the image of God, he was promised escape (to eternal life) if he kept the commandment or law (Gen. 2:16f.; Dt. 30:15-20, etc. See further my Escape.). He did not, but Jesus as the second Adam did! And having died for his people, he was raised from the dead in what was identically the same physical body, significantly referred to as a (removable) tent (John 1:14, cf. 2 Pet. 1:13f.), in which he had lived and died hitherto. If this was not the case, then his resurrection was phantasmagoric (Luke 24:39, cf. Mt. 14:26). It never really occurred, at least within human experience as we know it. In light of the fact that all resurrections on earth known to us (e.g. Lazarus) are physical, the same must surely hold true with regard to Jesus. (8* To argue as some do that after his resurrection Jesus was no longer subject to death, Rom. 6:9, fails to appreciate the fact that he was not personally subject to death BEFORE he died. The point of the gospel is that in contrast with Adam he first gained life for himself by keeping the law, cf. Mt. 3:13-17, then freely gave it for his people. Once he had done this and had risen from the dead, death no longer had any claim on him. He had no more reason to die.) On the other hand, the apostle makes it plain that transformation only occurs beyond history, and surely this is true of Jesus who, had he not given his life for his people, would not have died at all. If the saints at the end of history do not die and therefore do not rise but are nonetheless changed at their rapture ascension, surely the same must be true of Jesus.

But there is another point. In the above book, Gaffin, following his mentor Murray whose exegetical contortionism was noteworthy not least in his  “The Imputation of Adam’s Sin”, insists in his detailed analysis of 1 Corinthians 15:42-49 (which ideally requires much longer treatment) that “the biblical doctrines of creation, including man as God’s image, of the fall and sin, Christology, soteriology and eschatology are all addressed decisively by these verses” (p.193) and proceeds to maintain, rightly in a sense, that Paul goes back to creation before the putative ‘fall’. However, Gaffin is so conditioned by and imbued with the Augustinian worldview that in the course of his exposition he indulges in extensive eisegesis, special pleading and even what he himself calls “overly subtle exegesis” (p.200). His intention is to establish that Adam (and creation for that matter) before the so-called ‘fall’ was constitutionally different from what he was after it. (9* Gaffin’s Augustinian view of the ‘goodness’ of creation referred to in Genesis 1 is clearly astray. He fails to recognize that the ‘very good’ creation of Genesis 1:31 was no more perfect than the ‘exceedingly good’ land of Numbers 14:7, which the Bible itself clearly regards as provisional, Heb.3,4, cf. 11:9. On p.206, contrary to the evidence, he denies the basic inadequacy of the material creation despite the fact that it is ‘made by hand’, Ps. 102:25; Isa, 45:12, etc., and therefore neither perfect nor eternal. See further my Manufactured Or Not So. The word ‘good’ certainly does not mean ‘perfect’ as suggested by McGowan above, p.46, contrast p.203. Paul sees creation as still ‘good’ in NT times, cf. 1 Tim. 4:3f.) It is for this reason that he is anxious to progress from what he terms protology to eschatology (pp.198,203). Since for him the relationship between fall, sin, curse, corruption and the rest are fundamental to the biblical worldview, this is necessary. But it fails to reckon with the fact that sin and curse might not be in Paul’s purview. The comparison of the apostle, who is intent on answering the questions “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (15:35), is not between pre-fall Adam’s and Jesus’ resurrection body but the contrast between Adam’s earth(l)y body of dust as such whether sinful or not sinful and Christ’s resurrection body. What, we may ask, has corruptible dust to do with sin (or with good for that matter, cf. Rom. 7:18)? In other words, Paul is contrasting the earthly body of dust with the heavenly body of spirit irrespective of sin, and subtle distinctions like that between vv. 44a and 44b do not lead to any other view. (On the latter, see e.g. Thiselton, p.1279.)

On page 197 Gaffin infers from what he terms the ‘theological logic’ of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 a covenant parallel between Adam and Christ as heads and representatives (though he admits it is not explicitly mentioned, p.196f.). He claims (p.197) that his view, though resisted in some quarters, is of the first order or magnitude of importance and he virtually challenges his readers to contradict it. So, having the temerity to take up the gauntlet I unhesitatingly reply, first, that there is no evidence at all in Scripture that Adam was our covenant head and representative. (10* See further my Covenant TheologyDid God Make a Covenant with Creation?An Exact Parallel?) He was simply archetypal and hence representative man according to the flesh, and it is only as flesh that we can be said to be ‘in him’ as even Jesus was as his son (Luke 3:38). To put the issue bluntly, the imputation of Adam’s sin apart from faith is a fundamental fallacy or, more to the point, an appalling heresy, which, if it were true, would embrace Jesus himself. (See further below.) Second, Gaffin’s position is plainly contradicted by reference to Jesus himself as the second Adam. For he who was, as are all agreed, without sin despite his sinful ancestry including the prostitute Rahab, nonetheless had a perishable body simply because he was born of a woman whose original progenitor was dusty Adam. (Job’s question of 15:14, cf. 14:1, is a good one!) It is therefore to go completely beyond the evidence to argue that the pre-resurrection body of 44a, which is marked by perishability, dishonour and weakness in verses 42f., belongs not to creation but to the fall and its consequent curse (p.199). The plain truth is that Jesus as first Adamic flesh was clearly mortal (he died), corruptible (he got older), weak (2 Cor. 13:4), prone to temptation, sweat, fatigue and endowed with a lowly body (Phil. 3:21) like his brethren (Heb. 2:17) apart from sin and consequently required change like the rest of us (1 Cor. 15:51ff.).  So appeal to Romans 5:12ff and 1 Corinthians 15:21f., which he quite wrongly regards as covenantal, does nothing to help Gaffin’s case since these texts are  irrelevant to it. Indeed, it may be added that the gospel is founded on the fact that our salvation or resurrection, as Hebrews 2 insists, was achieved by a fellow human being who came to us in the likeness of our own flesh prone to sin though it is (Rom. 8:3, cf. 7:14). No wonder that Gaffin is not happy with the expression “created corruptible” (p.201 n.11) and the idea that the “original creation is inherently defective” (p.206). Yet this is surely the biblical position as Hebrews 1:10-12, many other texts and sheer ‘theological logic’ indicate. In 1 Corinthians 15:35ff. sin is not on the horizon, or, as Gaffin would say, not in Paul’s purview, until verse 56. Paul is dealing with corruptible nature (protology, if you like) irrespective of sin.

Gaffin fails to realize it but his position has catastrophic consequences for his (Reformed or Augustinian) theology. Why and how? it may be asked.

First, we must note that while Gaffin insists on the antithetic parallelism involved in these verses, he fails to see that it relates to man’s generic nature as flesh not to sin (contrast Rom. 5:12-21) which he himself has excluded in his (protological) premises. For if Adam was perfect (equal with or like God from the start?), we must ask, on the one hand, why he was put on probation and promised eternal life if he kept the commandment (11* See on this espec. A.A.Hodge, pp.122f.), and, on the other, how and why he fell. After all, Jesus himself, who is presented to us as inherently imperfect at his fleshly birth and knowing neither good nor evil like Adam before he received the commandment (cf. Isa. 7:15f.; Luke 2:40-52), had to be perfected in order to achieve the glory and perfection of God. (12* Writers on theological themes seem to miss the fact that man is by creation imperfect both generically and morally. It is only as he achieves moral perfection that he can achieve the generic perfection of the glory of God as God’s son.) Apart from stress on perfection, in Hebrews things that need replacement like the law, which relates to the flesh (cf. Heb. 7:16; 9:10), and the temple (cf. Mark 14:58), though ‘good’, that is, useful or serving an earthly purpose, are also intrinsically faulty or inadequate (Heb. 7:18f.; 8:2,7,13, cf. Gal. 3:21). But, second, on the basis of his assumptions Gaffin is able to present us with an incorruptible Jesus only by ignoring, first, Jesus’ highly dubious human pedigree, for Jesus was not only a son of Adam the man of dust (Luke 3:38, cf. John 3:6) but of his progeny who were made in his image (Gen. 5:1-3; Mt. 1:1-16). In other words, Gaffin’s attempt to present us with a Jesus who is a de novo second Adam like the pre-fall first is impossible. It ignores, even expunges, (the recapitulation of) history (cf. Mt. 2:15, etc.). Jesus himself as the second Adam and hence a son of the first (Luke 3:38) had to be corruptible flesh in order to overcome the world (cf. John 16:33; Heb. 2:9, etc.), the flesh (Heb. 2:17, cf. Rom. 8:3) and the devil (John 14:30) by his obedience. The fact is that the biblical worldview that Gaffin attributes to Paul (p.199) is his own or rather Augustine’s.

Second, the author of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus was as one who was born of woman (Gal. 4:4) like all his (physically normal and not abnormal, p.199) brethren in every respect (Heb. 2:17). This obviously means that he replicated their physical or fleshly if not their moral nature. Moreover, unlike his heavenly Father, since he was incarnate he was like them subject to temptation (Mt. 4:1-11; James 1:12-16) and had to endure along with the rest of us the (natural) war between flesh and spirit (Gal. 5:16-26; James 4:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:11) but without sinning (Heb. 4:15, pace Art. 9 of the C of E). Third, as Paul indicates in Romans 1:23, man, even the incarnate Jesus (!), is both mortal and corruptible by nature, that is, as flesh in obvious contrast with God who is spirit. Fourth, Jesus was naturally subject to corruption (decay) for the simple reason that he got older (cf. Luke 2:40-52; 3:23; John 8:57) like the creation from which he emanated through Adam whose son he was (Heb. 1:11, cf. 8:13; 2 Cor. 4:16). It is very disturbing therefore to find that various writers attribute aging to sin! Perhaps this is why Philip Eveson (p.66) posits the creation of Adam fully grown! A man who does not undergo development is an oxymoron and not a man, certainly not representative man according to the flesh. In fact, Eveson’s contention is scuttled by Jesus himself, for he, the second Adam, came into the world as a baby and underwent normal, if flawless, physical maturation. (13* See further my Twenty-Four Hours? – Reasons why I believe the Genesis days are undefined periods of time) In other words, (a) though human physical nature is acquired by birth apart from sin, (John 3:6, pace Augustine and carnal concupiscence), our moral nature is personally and individually acquired by our either breaking or keeping the law (Rom. 4:15; Eph. 2:3; 1 John 3:7, etc.), and therefore (b) though sin (or righteousness for that matter) cannot be transferred to offspring except by imputation which requires faith (as in the case of Jesus when he was made sin, 2 Cor. 5:21), its effects including suffering can (Num. 14:3,29-33, contrast Dt. 24:16, etc.). So while Adam had a deleterious but unspecified effect (pace Pelagius) on his progeny (Rom. 5:12ff.), that effect was clearly not sin transmitted or imputed. Where there is no sin, its imputation is regarded throughout Scripture as evil (e.g. 1 K. 21:10; Luke 23:10, etc.). However, if Adam’s sin is imputed apart from faith to innocent children, then Jesus was necessarily implicated and God implicitly charged with evil. (See further my ImputationStraightforward Arguments against the Imputation of Adam’s Sin to his Posterity, etc.)


The plain truth is that fall, original, imputed or birth sin and cosmic curse stemming from the sin of Adam are figments of Augustinian fancy which distort biblical teaching in general. (14* On Augustine see my Augustine: Asset or Liability?.) Creation, including man, is subject to the bondage of corruption (decay) by divine decree, that is, by nature (Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12). God clearly intended it to be that way since he always had something better in mind for the creatures he had made in his image (cf. 2 Cor. 5:5) as opposed to those that were not, that is, their elevation to sonship. But since they all sin and come short of his glory (Rom. 3:23; 5:12), in accordance with his plan of salvation he sent Jesus into the world as one of them in the likeness of sinful flesh to overcome sin (Rom. 8:3) and serve as their pioneer to glory (Heb. 6:20; 12:2). Thus he did what we all in our fleshly weakness fail to do (Rom. 7:14), that is, keep the law, gain life and confirm his Sonship. (15* Reformed theology, following Augustine, places the blame for man’s putative ‘fall’ from perfection (!) almost exclusively on the devil. In the Bible it is the weakness of the flesh, vulnerable as it is to temptation, which receives far more emphasis as Gen. 3:6, Rom. 3:19f., 7:14, 1 Cor. 1:29 and Gal. 2:16, for example, indicate. That is why the flesh, Rom. 13:14, Gal. 5:16, or what is earthly in us is meant to be put to death or overcome, Col. 3:5. From the beginning man was meant to exercise dominion over all created things including his own flesh. Only Jesus succeeded, John 16:33; Heb. 2:9, etc.) He did more, however. He freely gave his flesh (Col. 1:22; 1 Pet. 3:18), which was not liable to death because he had faithfully kept the law, for us and thus brought life and incorruption (Gk) to light (2 Tim. 1:10) to enable us to become generically like God in whose image we were made from the start (cf. Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18).

So, finally, we need to note that transformed or glorified flesh (pp.167,182) and redeemed creation (pp.202,212,226) are but two sides of the same coin. (16* In his note on pp.202 Gaffin rightly sees the connection between the flesh and creation in general. This raises two important questions, however. First, how can Gaffin who identifies man’s ‘outer self’ of 2 Cor. 4:16, p.227, with the ‘flesh’ p.230, proceed to posit the redemption of creation on the basis of Romans 8:18-25, to which he refers at least four times, when Paul, following Jesus in John 3, clearly denies the redemption of the flesh in 1 Corinthians 15:50? If the flesh cannot be redeemed, then neither can the creation from which it stems. They both suffer from old age or corruption by nature, cf. Luke 3:23 and Heb. 1:11. Next, in the second section of his essay, having denied on p.218 the immaterial composition of the resurrection body, Gaffin then stresses that Jesus ‘became’ after his resurrection and ascension what he was not before, p.219, and that he was a ‘changed man’, p.220. In the event this ‘changed man’ turns out to be a life-giving Spirit with a capital ‘S’ in contrast with Adam who was a living soul. Is Gaffin, who comes close to equating or identifying Christ with the Spirit, p.221, suggesting then that the Spirit has flesh or materiality? He is in danger of being hoist on his own petard. The biblical antithesis or dualism between flesh and spirit relates primarily to nature, not sin. It reflects the difference between heaven and earth, respectively God’s throne and footstool.) They are both contradictions in terms. On the one hand, Jesus insists on the absolute necessity of a second, that is, a spiritual, birth or birth from above (John 3:1-8) which implies that flesh as opposed to spirit cannot enter the kingdom of God. This implication is substantiated and endorsed by Paul who says specifically that flesh and blood cannot inherit that kingdom (1 Cor. 15:50a). On the other hand, Paul insists without reference to sin that all that is inherently corruptible cannot inherit the incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:50b) and that all that is physically visible is inherently temporary (2 Cor. 4:18). In case we have any questions about what is corruptible, texts like Matthew 6:19f., Luke 12:33, 16:9,  Hebrews 1:10-12, 10:34, 12:27 and 1 Pet. 1:3f.,7,18,23 leave us in no doubt that all manufactured or created things which are visible and temporary by nature (2 Cor. 4:16-18) are involved (cf. Gen. 1:1; Mt. 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12). In other words, the idea that the material creation including the flesh, which is extraneous to God, will be redeemed is ruled out of court. It is man having shed his tent of earthly flesh (clay, cf. 2 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:13f.) who finds his place in heaven endowed with an appropriate spiritual or heavenly body (2 Cor. 5:1) like the one Jesus gained at his ascension exaltation (Phil. 3:21, cf. John 17:5,24). What 1 Corinthians 15:42ff. demonstrate beyond reasonable dispute is that while our resurrection may be corporeal (soma) ensuring continued personal identity, it will not be physical/natural (sarx). Dust, not to mention sin, cannot go to heaven, as even Job, not to mention Paul (1 Cor. 15:50), seemed to recognize (10:9; 15:15; 25:5). Like the transient, corruptible, destructible creation itself it is destined to pass away (Mt. 24:35).

See further my Romans 8:18-25The Destruction of the Material CreationRestoration and ReplacementWill Creation Be Redeemed?The Essence of the Case Against the Redemption of CreationWhen Was Jesus Transformed?From Here to EternityWith What Kind Of A Body Do They Come?



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