Monday, 17 October 2016

The Nature of the Resurrected Body

What will it be like for people in heaven? What sort of bodies do they have? The Bible does not address this much so we have to speculate, but we get a few hints.


The biggest text we have on this issue is by Paul:
1 Cor 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown [l]a perishable body, it is raised [m]an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, [n]earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, [o]we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
The resurrected will have new bodies, heavenly bodies, suitable for entrance to heaven. Paul says more in his sequel:
2 Cor 5:1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.[a] 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
He is not talking about a ghost, but a physical body. Not flesh and blood, but a heavenly body. Our physical bodies are frail, are prone to illness, and age. Not so the heavenly body!

Also worth pointing out this verse, which makes it clear Paul believed it was possible for a person to visit heaven outside of his physical body:

2 Corinthians 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
It is worth remembering that the custom among Jews was to bury the body in a tomb to allow the flesh to rot away, and then, perhaps a year later, to collect the bones and place them in an ossuary. Clearly Paul cannot have believed anyone dead for any appreciable time would be resurrected in his or her original body!


Another hint in Matthew, this time quoting Jesus himself:
Mat 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
No marriage. What does that say about sex? Do you think the resurrected are free to have sex with whoever they like? Or no sex at all? Christianity makes a big deal about sex outside of marriage; in the afterlife, either sex outside of marriage is morally right, or there is no sex. The latter seems more likely to me (unless promiscuity in heaven your reward for abstinence on earth?).

Lust is considered one of the seven deadly sins, and would certainly not be permitted - or even possible - in heaven, which further argues against sex in heaven.

This makes me wonder about other earthly matters: Do people wee and poo in heaven? If they do not, do they need to eat? As Paul says, the new body will be imperishable; it will not decay. Why think you need food to sustain such a body?


A couple of other verses to think about:
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.
Acts 13:34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’

Paul and the Apocalypse

Paul expected the apocalypse in his lifetime. He discussed how the dead would be resurrected, but what of the people alive at that moment? He makes it clear that they too will be changed. You cannot get into heaven in your current earthly body, but that is okay, God will transform your current body into a heavenly body, so you too can enter heaven.
Phil 3:20 For our [m]citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21 who will transform [n]the body of our humble state into conformity with [o]the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

1 Cor 15:51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised [r]imperishable, and we will be changed.

Jesus' resurrection

With regards specifically to Jesus, we read in Acts that God did something special to allow the disciples to see Jesus in his new body:
Acts 10:39 We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the [ad]land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a [ae]cross. 40 God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.
It does also mention Jesus ate and drank after the resurrection. That sounds like a physical body. Indeed, the Gospel of John has Thomas inspecting the crucifixion wounds.
John 20:24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
This is clearly Jesus raised in his original body!

Of all the discrepancies between the resurrection accounts, for me this is the big one. According to Paul, Jesus was raised in a new body. According to the later gospel writers, he was raised in his original body.

The explanation is in the word "later". By the time Matthew Luke and John were written perhaps half a century had passed and many, if not all, the original witnesses were probably dead. Taken together with problem with the post-resurrection sighting of Jesus in Jerusalem, we can be sure that all these accounts are pure embellishment.

Jewish Beliefs

Some Christians respond by saying that Paul was a Jew and therefore had a Jewish view of the afterlife, i.e., a belief in a physical resurrection. This claim fails for two very different reasons

Firstly, there was no monolithic Jewish view of the afterlife. Judaism had splintered into numerous factions, with their own beliefs on the afterlife. The Saducees, for example, believed there was no afterlife. To claim that a specific man was Jewish and therefore had the standard Jewish belief is just plain nonsense.

Secondly, Paul clearly changed his religious beliefs. Even if he originally believed in a physical resurrection, he also believed Christianity was wrong. He had a life-changing experience on the road to Damascus that is pretty well documented. We know it changed his mind about Christianity. Why would it not also change his mind about the nature of the resurrection?

Remember, what Paul saw was Jesus appearing as a bright light. He saw no physical body. If he became convinced this was the resurrected Jesus, then he must have also become convinced that the resurrected body was (or resembled) a bright light - whatever his view on the resurrected body had been prior to that.

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