Re The Body of The Resurrected Jesus

1. We are explicitly told that Jesus was physical (Luke 24:39, etc.).

2. We are nowhere told his body had been glorified. This I always took to mean that it was endowed with splendour and transformed to fit it for heaven (Luke 24:26, cf. Mt. 19:28, John 17:24 and Heb. 1:3. In light of Heb. 1:6 and 2:5, the ‘new world’ of Mt. 19:28 would appear to be identical with heaven).

3. There is no indication of the Lord’s splendour and glory which is referred to quite gratuitously by many writers (contrast the angels at the tomb, Luke 24:4). In fact, Jesus is not described physically anywhere in the NT (though note Mt. 17:2, cf. Mt. 13:43), least of all after his resurrection.

4. After his resurrection Jesus could be seen, heard and touched (e.g. John 20:17f.,26f.). 1 John 1:1-3, cf. Acts 1:3, presumably refers to Jesus after his resurrection.

5. John says we do NOT know what we shall be but that we shall be like him (1 John 3:2f.; Phil. 3:21). The inference must be that the Jesus he saw was the untransformed physical Jesus. Contrast his vision (cf. Paul in Acts 9,22,26) in heaven in the book of Revelation, 1:12ff.; 2:18; 19:12, cf. Heb. 12:29. When Jesus returns he will do so in the glory of the Father (Mt.16:27, cf. 25:31; John 17:24; Tit. 2:13) and as a consuming fire (2 Thes. 1:7f.;2:8, cf. Heb. 12:29; Rev. 1:12ff.; 2:18; 19:12).

6. Paul says that the present physical body that is eventually buried in the ground is NOT the new body (1 Cor. 15:37, cf. v.50). He also says we hope for what is not seen which must surely include the body that is to resemble that of Jesus (Rom. 8:18,24f.; 2 Cor. 4:18; Phil. 3:21).

7. Many writers seem to think that Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances such as Luke 24:36; John 20:26; 21:4 indicate that he was already glorified. It is difficult to understand why. For a start, as writers like Geisler (The Battle for the Resurrection) maintain, these appearances are not necessarily miraculous. Even if they were, it must be asked in what way they differ from Jesus’ walking on the sea, for example, BEFORE he was crucified and raised from the dead. Note how in Matthew 14 the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost (v.26, cf. Mark 6:49; Luke 24:37,39) but Jesus himself denies this. In any case, Jesus physically rescues Peter by stretching out his hand to help him when he gets into to trouble (v.31).

8. If we claim that ordinary people can’t walk through closed doors (John 20:26), we are first begging the question and, secondly, ignoring the fact that Peter did the same later in Acts (5:17ff.; cf. 12:6ff.). Peter and the apostles were clearly NOT ‘glorified’ (cf. 2 Pet.1:14). In light of this there is no reason for imagining that Jesus was either.

9. Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). If Jesus’ resurrection was physical and his body ‘flesh and bones’ (Luke 24:39), then his glorification is out of the question. Rather, as Peter said on a later occasion, glory is yet to be revealed (1 Pet. 4:13, cf. Rom. 8:18,24f.; 1 Cor.2:9). In light of John 17:24 and Matthew 19:28, not to mention Paul’s vision at his conversion and references like Rev. 1:12ff.; 2:18 and 19:12, Jesus’ transformation did not occur until he ascended, as John 20:17 implies. This accords, or rather corresponds, with Paul’s claim that those alive at Christ’s second coming (1 Cor. 15:51ff.), notably in the glory of the Father (Mt. 16:27), will also be caught up into the air and transformed in their turn (1 Thes. 4:17). (* The elevation of the saints and the descent of Jesus does not involve a contradiction. The two ideas are obviously complementary. They involve encounter. It is only when writers imagine that Christ and even the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2) descend to earth that they run into difficulty. As far as I am aware there is no reference to Christ’s return to earth in the entire New Testament. On the other hand there are plenty of references indicating that he will not. When he returns to establish his spiritual kingdom the physical heaven and earth will flee away (Isa. 34:4; Rev. 20:11; 21:1; Mt. 24:35, etc.). In other words, Jesus’ ascension transformation was the precursor and paradigm of what will occur at the end. Not without reason does the author of Hebrews talk of Jesus as being the pioneer of our salvation (12:2, cf. 2:10; 6:20). He paves the way for his people by resurrection from the dead and/or ascension transformation. Some writers make much of the grave clothes and maintain that Jesus passed through them thus proving that his body was glorified. The problem with this is that an angel is said to have rolled away the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb (Mt. 28:2, cf. Mark 16:4; Luke 24:1-4; John 20:1-8). Why should this have been necessary if Jesus could just pass through every solid object in his way? Again, it must be said that those who maintain that Jesus was no longer subject to natural law are implicitly docetic in their thinking and are in effect denying the physical resurrection.

10. The issue confronting us is this: either we accept Jesus’ physical resurrection and deny his glorification or we accept his glorification and deny his physical resurrection. We can’t have it both ways.

11. Those who say Jesus was glorified while still visible (implicitly denied by Rom. 8:18,24f.; 2 Cor. 4:18) make much of the failure of Cleopas and his companion to recognise him. Apart from the circumstances which led to the assumption that Jesus was permanently dead and buried despite Luke 24:22-24, Jesus’ appearance would almost necessarily have undergone a change. Even if it had not, we need to take Luke 24:16,31 into consideration. Hadn’t he been flogged to within an inch of his life and then undergone crucifixion and appalling suffering? (It is here that Mel Gibson’s film on the passion has value). There is no suggestion of rejuvenation in his resurrection.

12. Grudem refers to the ‘incarnate’ Christ in heaven (ST, p. 859, cf. Milne who refers to the Christians “fleshly, bodily hope”, BST John, p. 170). The plain truth is that in heaven there is no possibility of flesh, which is by nature earthly (cf. Gen. 2:7) and naturally corruptible. Paul scotches all such ideas particularly in 2 Cor. 4:7-5:10.

13. If Jesus was still flesh when he rose again from the dead but no longer subject to death (Rom. 6:9) since he had not personally sinned (cf. Rom. 6:23), his ascension and transformation were an absolute necessity (John 20:17). Why? Because as flesh he was still corruptible. He could not age (cf. John 8:57) indefinitely since age and decay eventually come to an end (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16; Heb. 1:10-12; 8:13). The reason why such stress is laid, especially in Acts 2 and 13, on the fact that Jesus did not see corruption is precisely because he was physical (like David who saw corruption) but was transformed at his ascension. If Jesus was already glorified at his resurrection, his putative corruption was an irrelevance. Only in his permanent glorified state could he inherit the throne and eternal blessings of David at God’s right hand (Acts 13:34). Only from heaven could he apply his victory in the flesh and put all his enemies under his feet (Mt. 28:18; John 7:39; 1 Cor. 15:24-28, etc.).

14. In heaven Jesus has recovered the glory he laid aside at his incarnation (John 17:5,24). In his glorified (or his heavenly, spiritual or supernatural, cf. 1 Cor. 15:42-55) body in which the fullness of his deity dwells (Col. 2:9), he now enjoys the generic nature, that is, the immortality and incorruptibility of his Father (cf. 2 Tim. 1:10) which was promised to man in Genesis 1 and 2. He is forever indestructible (Heb. 7:3,16,24,28).