Vol. 7, No. 4
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The Bible clearly shows the resurrection of Christ was a bodily resurrection. By using the phrase "bodily resurrection," it is meant that the physical body of Christ rose upon the resurrection. The resurrection is recorded in all four of the Gospel accounts: Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-10; John 20:1. Matthew's account reveals two women named Mary (Magdalene and "the other Mary") approaching the grave of our Lord. An angel came down from heaven, rolled back the stone that sealed the grave and sat upon it to talk to the women. The angel told them that Jesus was no longer resting in the grave, but was raised. The angel also commanded them to look at the empty grave, the very place the lifeless body of our Lord was laid to rest just three days prior.
Mark records this glorious event in the first eight verses of the sixteenth chapter of the book he penned. Here, "the other Mary" is identified as the mother of James. The added information in this account is found in verse three, "And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" The ironic aspect is that there was no need to remove the stone, as it had been removed already so that the risen Savior could come forth. This account also relays information as to an angel telling the women to look upon the place where Jesus was laid, now empty.
Luke records the event in 24:1-10 of the Gospel account bearing his name. Much of the same information is given as was recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Notice, however, Verse Three, "And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus." Rather than recording Mary and the other women were told to look at the place where the body of Jesus was laid just three days previous, it is clearly revealed the physical body of the Lord was no longer in the tomb.
John Chapter Twenty bears the record of the resurrection as well. John, however, does not go into detail of the actual event, rather of the events that took place shortly thereafter. John records the footrace of Peter and John to see for themselves the empty tomb (verses 4-5). The point of this is what comes next in verses six and seven when Peter enters the tomb to see the linen clothes, but no body of the Lord. Immediately after, John also looks in, sees the empty tomb and believes (verse 8).
At the very least, four individuals actually saw the empty tomb where the lifeless body of the Savior was laid to rest for so short a time. These people are Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Peter and John. The phrase "at least" is used because there were other women with the two Mary's when they approached the tomb (Luke 24:10). How much these other women saw is not specifically stated in any of the Gospel accounts, but based on Luke 24:10 it seems they too beheld the linen clothes and that the body of the Christ was "missing."
It is quite clear Jesus was raised from the dead, as the empty tomb was seen. If one desires more evidence, however, much more can be found in the New Testament. Acts 1:3 reads, "To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." From this verse, one learns the risen Lord was seen on the earth by numerous individuals over a period of forty days. First Corinthians 15:1-8 stands as a summary of the instances in which the risen Savior was seen. Verses One through Four of the text describe the Gospel--the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Verse Five begins the summary of occasions in which Jesus was seen after the resurrection. Verses Five and Seven both list the apostles as having seen the risen Christ, representing different times in which he appeared to them. Peter, James and Paul are listed separately in verses Five, Seven and Eight. The most beneficial reference in this text is Verse Six, "After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep." Note that the summary of post-resurrection appearances contained in First Corinthians Fifteen is not a complete list. The Gospel accounts also record various appearances. Matthew 28:9 records an appearance of Christ to the women who found the empty tomb. Only a few verses later (verses 16-17), he appears to the eleven remaining apostles, as Judas had hanged himself. Mark 16:9 records the first resurrection appearance, "Now when Jesus was raised early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils." In Verse Twelve of the same chapter, he appeared to two undisclosed disciples. Likewise, Verse Fourteen records an appearance to the eleven. Luke Twenty-Four records similar events. Notice the bodily form as Jesus produces his hands and feet. "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet" (Luke 24:39-40). A similar instance is recorded in John 20:19-29. Here, Thomas was not present when the risen Savior appeared to the eleven. When told of the instance, he doubted and requested the evidence of the nail prints in order to believe. In verses Twenty-Six through Twenty-Nine, Jesus allowed him to handle that evidence, thus validating the faith of Thomas.
In addition to the empty tomb, the numerous appearances of the risen Savior and the handling of his physical body, there is further proof of the bodily resurrection. "And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them" (Luke 24:41-43). The same event is recorded in John 21:5-14, with more detail. The point is that Jesus ate food, thus he had a physical body.
There are critics of the Bible that try to explain these references away. They claim the disciples took the body of Christ to make it look like he had risen according to prophecy. They further "explain" the sightings of Jesus are figments of imagination, like to those of seeing Elvis. To this nonsense, one need only ask to be told of an instance when over five hundred individuals had the same sighting of Elvis, or any other dead man, at the same time and in the same place. There is no such occurrence of mass hallucination! The disciples did not steal the body of Christ; they did not hallucinate as to his post-resurrection appearances. The plain and simple truth of the matter is that Jesus rose from the dead to be seen in his physical body.
In light of all the above evidence, it cannot be disputed that the resurrection of Jesus was a bodily resurrection. This means he had a physical body when he rose from the dead. Further, it must have been the same body in which he died, as the wounds he received prior to his death were visibly present. In addition, he was recognized by those who knew him. Now, the question arises, "Where is the body of Christ now?" To answer this question, again the Bible must be consulted. "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). This verse does not indicate anything happened to the body of Christ other than ascending into the heavens. By this, it is meant that the body did not burn up in the atmosphere or disintegrate by any other means. It appears from this verse alone that the physical body of Jesus (though adapted for a spiritual habitation, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49-52) is in heaven.
The Book of Hebrews tells of where Jesus currently resides and what he is doing. Notice the latter portion of Chapter One Verse Three, "When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." The time that Jesus purged our sins was when he suffered, died, was buried and was resurrected. After this, he sat down on the right hand of God. This was done when he ascended into heaven, as seen in Acts 1:9 previously cited. The reason Jesus left this earth after the death, burial and resurrection was that his work on earth was completed. Notice the last few moments of the life of Christ as recorded in John 19:28-30: "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished...When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." "These words [It is finished] look back to 'all things' in John 19:28. They refer to 'all things' that the Father had given Jesus to do...Included in His commission was the complete fulfillment of Scripture (John 19:28) which the words 'it is finished' also reflect" (Thomas 246). Albert Barnes states, "It was not merely to teach that he came; it was to purify the hearts of people, to remove their sins, and to put an end to sacrifice by the sacrifice of himself" (Barnes' Hebrews 1:3). Now that his work is completed, Jesus ascended to heaven and now sits at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). The significance of the right hand is that of power and authority.
This phrase is taken from the manner of speaking among men, and means that he was exalted to honor and power in the heavens. It was esteemed the place of the highest honor to be seated at the right hand of a prince. So, to be seated at the right hand of God, means that Jesus is exalted to the highest honor of the universe. (Barnes' Mark 16:19)
In addition to the bodily resurrection, it has also been shown that Jesus ascended into heaven and is now reigning as King over his kingdom on the right hand of God. Now the question arises, "Was that ascension a bodily ascension, or is it just his spirit that rules on high?" Again, the only place to which one can turn for answers to Bible questions is the Bible. To begin, consider Philippians 3:20-21:
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
There are several points to consider from this text. The first is the difference between the "vile body" of man and the "glorious body" of Christ. The Greek word from which "vile" comes properly means "depression (in rank or feeling)" and indicates a state of "humiliation" or being "made low" (Strong's NT: 5014). "It refers to the body as it is in its present state, as subject to infirmities, disease and death. It is different far from what it was when man was created, and from what it will be in the future world" (Barnes' Philippians 3:21). The body of Christ, however, is different--it is a "glorious body." The word "glorious" makes reference "of the state of blessedness into which believers are to enter hereafter through being brought into the likeness of Christ...brightness or splendor" (Vine 344-345). It seems God gave us a sample of that glorious body on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured. There, "his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light" (Matthew 17:2). "He went to heaven clothed with a body, that he might take possession of the inheritance in our nature, and be not only the first-born from the dead, but the first-born of the children of the resurrection. We shall be conformed to the image of his Son, that he may be the first-born among many brethren, Rom 8:29" (Matthew Henry Philippians 3:17-21). There is a definite difference between the two bodies. The vile body "has its rise and origin from the earth, it is supported out of the earth, and is subject to many diseases and to death at last" (Matthew Henry Philippians 3:17-21). The glorious body, however, has its rise and origin from the spiritual realm, is supported by God, and is not subject to any disease save sin, which is the only thing that can cause spiritual death. The physical body is one destined for death while the spiritual has the hope of eternal life.
Another point derived from the above-cited text of Philippians is the use of the word "changed" and the phrase "may be fashioned." The Greek word for changed means "to transfigure or disguise" (Strong's NT: 3345). The American Standard Version (ASV) renders the phrase "fashion anew" from which Wycliffe gets the definition "refashion" (Wycliffe Philippians 3:21). It indicates the appearance of the body will be changed (Vine 292). In the Greek "may be fashioned" means, "jointly formed" or "conformed to" (Strong's NT: 4832). The ASV translates the word "conformed" where it signifies "having the same form of another," in this case Christ (Vine 156). The point is that we will not be given new bodies of a spiritual nature, but that our physical bodies will be changed into spiritual bodies. The likeness given is that of Jesus. Just as the physical body of Jesus was not replaced by a spiritual one, but changed into a spiritual one, the physical bodies of the faithful will be changed likewise. The physical body of Jesus did not burn up or disintegrate--it was changed into the glorious spiritual body in which he currently dwells and reigns as King!
Another question now needs an answer, "What did Jesus give up when he first received his bodily form and for how long did he give it up?" To begin with, it is affirmed Jesus is deity; he originated in heaven. One of the best passages to substantiate this point is John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In the original Greek text, the definite article appears immediately before "God." This indicates the use of God is representative of deity--not just God the Father, but all of the Godhead (Workman). Jesus, therefore, is fully deity from the beginning. He is neither an angel nor a created being.
There is an interesting contrast between the eternal existence of the LOGOS and the incarnate sojourn of the Son of God. "In the beginning was (a verb of continual timeless existence) the Word." Yet, "the Word became (a verb denoting the commencement of His human existence in time) flesh." Thus, the LOGOS had a pre-human, timeless existence. (Jackson 1)
However, God did prepare a physical body for the Jesus aspect of the Godhead. Notice the latter portion of Hebrews 10:5, "a body hast thou prepared me." Consulting Strong's, "prepared" means "to complete thoroughly" (NT: 2675).
Ps 40:7-9 is here used typologically. David is quoted as having spoken of the Messiah and his entrance into the world in human form. The will of God for Messiah was to make a full atonement for sin. This necessitated sacrifice and shedding of blood and therefore the body...prepared so that he might suffer. In suffering and death, the will of God was fully accomplished and the second or better covenant was fully established. (Wycliffe Hebrews 10:5-10)
Parallel the above information regarding Hebrews 10:5 with Philippians 5:2-8:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
This text also shows the deity of Christ from the phrase "form of God." This is an acknowledgement of the pre-existence of Jesus. When one considers the phrase "made himself of no reputation," the sacrifice Jesus made to become a man is evident. The ASV rendering is clearer with the use of "emptied himself." The Greek word represented by these phrases has a meaning "to make empty" or "to neutralize" (Strong's NT: 2758). "This does not mean that as the Son of man He was less than Divine. His self-emptying was an act of His sovereignty and in no way involved a forfeiture of His intrinsic Deity" (Jackson 2). This indicates that Jesus, as the sin-bearer of the world, was separated from God, as God can have no part with sin (Workman).
The totality of the sacrifice Jesus made in becoming flesh is evident in such passages First Timothy 2:5 reads, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Notice that Jesus is referred to as a man. Further, consider Acts 17:30-31, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." The man raised from the dead who will be the judge can be none other than Christ Jesus.
Jesus, divinity, became a man. This act was a permanent sacrifice. God the Father is a Spirit--God the Son has a physical body now, in heaven, in addition to the spiritual aspect of his God-hood. His physical body died on the earth, was buried and was resurrected. The key is that the physical body was resurrected. In addition, when the physical body of Jesus ascended into the clouds to be received of God it was transformed into a glorious body. Likewise, when the faithful leave this earth, they will have their physical bodies transformed.
Barnes' Notes. PC Study Bible. CD-ROM. Biblesoft, 1997.
Jackson, Wayne. "The Pre-Existence and Birth of Jesus." 1:3 (1970) 1-4.
Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition. CD-ROM. Hendrickson, 1991.
New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 1994.
Thomas, Robert and Stanley Gundry. A Harmony of the Gospels. New York: Harper SanFrancisco, 1978.
Vine, W. E. Vine's Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Reference Edition. Iowa Falls: World Bible, 1991.
Workman, Gary. Class notes on Deity of Christ. WVSOP. 5-12-2004.
Wycliffe Bible Commentary. PC Study Bible. CD-ROM. Moody, 1962.