reprinted from the book, Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses see catalog
by Randall Watters
The apostle Paul said, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is also vain." In the same passage, Paul gives the gospel formula:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. . . . (1 Cor. 15:14)
This "gospel," or good news, thus became the keystone of the entire Christian faith. To deny the resurrection of Christ meant to deny the truth of Christianity; to believe in the resurrected Christ was to believe in Christianity.
Unlike other religions of the day, Christianity involved one's dying to the elementary things of the world (Col. 2:8). Just as Christ died, so must Christians die to the rebellious nature of their flesh. A Christian approaches life from conversion onward as one who has actually died and been brought back to life as a new creature with a new, superior quality of life. Paul says in Romans 6:4,5:
Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
The concept of the resurrection of Christ is misunderstood and twisted by many to fit their own preconceived philosophies. The Greeks did not welcome the idea of receiving a body again in the afterlife, as they desired to be free of their own corruptibility. They wanted to be free of their physical body. When the Gnostics appeared in the Christian church, they carried this prejudice over into their theology, saying that there will be no actual physical or bodily resurrection, for, according to their philosophy, flesh was intrinsically evil. They reasoned that since God is good, he would not wish something evil (another body) on his children. They therefore believed in a spirit form as the final state of the righteous.
The early church Fathers such as Clement, Ignatius and Tertullian stress that it was Christ's body of flesh that was resurrected and glorified.
In Romans 6:4,5 (previously quoted) Paul states that we will be "united with Christ in the likeness of his resurrection." In 1 Corinthians chapter 15 he develops the hope that we will have a body like the one Jesus has. It is the same body, only transformed, in that it looks like you and is structured like you, yet apparently existing in a new form.
Paul likens resurrection to a seed which is dead, yet comes to life and is transformed into a plant, yet still possesses a continuum of substance. The resurrection body is glorified (1 Thes. 4:16-17; Phil. 3:21), or made incorruptible. It cannot die or perish, and apparently has supernatural qualities, for Jesus himself was able to walk through walls and ascend to heaven at will in his resurrected body (John 20:26; Acts 1:9,10). It is able to stand in the very presence of God in heaven (Mark 16:19). For all those who are resurrected, they will be "like the angels" in that they do not have sexual functions (Matt. 22:30), yet they actually have greater glory than the angels, as they are spoken of as having incorruptibility and immortality (1 Cor. 15:53,54), previously only possessed by God (1 Tim. 6:16). Likewise, the resurrected saints will actually "judge angels" (1 Cor. 6:3), implying a greater position over them. Certainly this is difficult to comprehend in our lowly and sinful state!
When does this bodily resurrection of God's children occur?
Jesus was the first one bodily resurrected to immortal life, and no one could precede "Christ the first fruits," as 1 Cor. 15:23 says, "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at his coming." Jesus is called the "firstborn from the dead, that he might come to have first place in all things" (Col. 1:18). Keeping in mind the meaning of firstborn as used in this passage, Christ is the Chief Agent of the resurrection.
All those who belong to Christ will receive their glorified bodies at his second coming.
Though the resurrection is yet future, even for those who die now there is immediate reward. Paul knew that to die would mean to be "with the Lord" (Phil. 1:22-24; 2 Cor. 5:6). By this he indicated that the spirits of those who die in union with Christ go to be with their Lord at the time of their physical death. This is not the same as the resurrection. The resurrection would occur at the rapture, when Christ returns for his church, and this would be the time when all will receive their glorified bodies. So we do not have to wait until the resurrection to see our Lord in heaven. Even to the criminal who had accepted Christ as his Savior during their hour of death, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). When Stephen was being stoned to death, he cried out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59). Obviously, he held the same hope of immediate reward as Paul did.
Without the hope of a resurrection, Paul says that "we are of all men most to be pitied." This is not only because living such a life would be a delusion, but because of the persecution Christians often receive at the hands of unfriendly governments and even individuals. Additionally, there would be no hope for the future.
Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses
JW: 1 CORINTHIANS 15:44 CONTRASTS THE NATURAL BODY WITH THE SPIRITUAL BODY, AND THEREFORE THE SPIRITUAL BODY IS OF AN IMMATERIAL NATURE, NOT HAVING SUBSTANCE."
First of all, we must come to appreciate that a body is a body. The WT has redefined words and has come up with their own peculiar meaning for English and Greek words. Out of 16 definitions of the word "body" in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, none can refer to immaterial spirits or beings. Two of the definitions are:
the frame or physical part of a man, animal or plant; the material organism, living or dead; also, specifically, a dead person; corpse.
flesh or material substance, as opposed to spirit.
Matter is material, and spirit is immaterial. Complex matter, as we know it, is corruptible, whereas spirit is not. If the WT were to even claim (which it doesn't) that those resurrected to heaven had some form of material (molecular) bodies, they would still be confounded by the concept of a "new" kind of matter, incorruptible matter; for Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:42-54 that the new bodies are incorruptible and imperish able. And if God can transform normal matter into incorruptible matter, it takes no more faith to believe that he can transfer corruptible flesh into incorruptible flesh. So any way you look at it, those resurrected have a new kind of material body.
The WT escapes this logic by saying that a body is not really a body. Even the Greek term for body (soma), used in 1 Cor. 15 and elsewhere, does not differ from the English dictionary definition (see Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). This is the WT's famous "last resort," that is, redefining common words.
In 1 Cor. 15:44 Paul is not contrasting material with immaterial, but natural with supernatural, as in 1 Cor. 2:14,15. (See ATTRIBUTES OF GOD, p.7)
JW: "THIS RESURRECTION (for the anointed) DOES NOT INCLUDE A PHYSICAL BODY, FOR 1 CORINTHIANS 15:50 SAYS, `FLESH AND BLOOD CANNOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM.'"
In the second half of verse 50, Paul says, "nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." He is contrasting the corruptible, sinful flesh and blood body with an incorruptible, sinless human body. No one makes the point better than a second century Christian apologist by the name of Irenaeus (120-202 A.D.), who answers the "heretics," primarily those influenced by pagan Greek philosophy. He writes:
. . . For immediately following, in the same Epistle, he says conclusively, speaking thus in reference to the flesh: "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying which is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy victory?" Now these words shall be appropriately said at the time when this mortal and corruptible flesh, which is subject to death, which also is pressed down by a certain dominion of death, rising up into life, shall put on incorruption and immortality. For then, indeed, shall death be truly vanquished, when that flesh which is held down by it shall go forth from under its dominion. And again, to the Philippians he says: "But our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus, who shall transfigure the body of our humiliation conformable to the body of his glory, even as he is able according to the working of his own power." What then, is this "body of humiliation" which the Lord shall transfigure, [so as to be] conformed to "the body of his glory?" Plainly it is this body composed of flesh, which is indeed humbled when it falls into the earth. Now its transformation [takes place thus], that while it is mortal and corruptible, it becomes immortal and incorruptible, not after its own proper substance, but after the mighty workings of the Lord, who is able to invest the mortal with immortality, and the corruptible with incorruption. And therefore he says, "that mortality may be swallowed up of life." (italics added)
Notice that the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:53 speaks of the mortal and corruptible (obviously, the flesh) putting on immortality and incorruptibility; and Phil. 3:21 says that Jesus transforms (Greek: metaschematizo; to change in fashion or appearance) our body into one like his! Likewise, let us examine Paul's words in Romans 8:11,23:
But 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 indwells you.
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (emphasis added)
Notice how Paul speaks of life being given to our mortal bodies one day, and how our bodies now groan but will be redeemed? Also notice the importance of the body in these two passages:
Yet, the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through his power. (1 Cor. 6:13b,14; consider also v.15-20)
Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Cor. 3:16,17)
Paul makes it clear that our bodies were created with a view of eternity. The aforementioned Irenaeus, quoting from Paul in 1 Thes. 5:23, comments appropriately:
And for this cause does the apostle, explaining himself, make it clear that the saved man is a complete man as well as a spiritual man; saying thus in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, "Now the God of peace sanctify you perfect (perfectos); and may your spirit, and soul, and body be preserved whole without complaint to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ." Now what was his object in praying that these three that is, soul, body, and spirit might be preserved to the coming of the Lord, unless he was aware of the [future] reintegration and union of the three, and [that they should be heirs of] one and the same salvation? For this cause also he declares that those are "the perfect" who present unto the Lord the three [component parts] without offence. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, ch. 6)
JW: "WHAT PROOF IS THERE THAT JESUS WAS RAISED IN A PHYSICAL BODY? AND THAT THE TRUE CHURCH WILL HAVE MATERIAL BODIES WITH JESUS IN THE KINGDOM?"
In Luke 24:15-30, Jesus made a post-resurrection appearance to his disciples. Verse 16 tells us that their eyes were prevented from recognizing him; meaning that normally they would have recognized him. Verse 30 tells us that he ate with them, and verse 31 says that when their eyes were opened they then recognized him, and he vanished. In verse 36 he reappears out of thin air, possessing a full body of flesh. Verse 37 tells us that his disciples at first thought him to be a materialized spirit:
But they were startled and frightened, and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 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." (Luke 24:37-39)
The WT would have us believe that Jesus just "materialized" a body for this special occasion, and that he actually was just a spirit! In other words, they are saying, he deliberately fooled them in verse 39. But why does this passage say that he was flesh and bones? And why would he show them his hands and feet? Because they had the very nail holes in them from his execution! John 20:27 tells us that he even had the hole from the spear still in his side:
Then he said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see my hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing."
If Jesus "materialized" a body for these special occasions, why would he be so deceptive as to make his own disciples think that it was really his own body? To show that his resurrected body would be "around" even in the kingdom of God, Jesus spoke these words:
"I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And when he had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." (Luke 22:15-18)
"And you are those who have stood by me in my trials; and just as my Father has granted me a kingdom, I will grant you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom. . . ." (Luke 22:28-30)
If Jesus had anticipated being an immaterial spirit, he would not have built their hopes up of eating and drinking in the kingdom. Jesus also said that he would bring his own body back to life in John 2:19,21: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. . . . But he was speaking of the temple of his body." (emphasis added)
Finally, Revelation 21:2,3 makes it clear that God will physically dwell with his church on the earth. Since God the Father is a Spirit and does not have a material body, we assume that this is referring to God the Son (Jesus), whose name is called Immanuel, meaning, "God with us." We read:
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and he shall dwell among them, and they shall be his people, and God Himself shall be among them." (emphasis added)
God, in the person of Jesus, shall literally dwell among his church. With the church, he will rule over the earth, and pain and suffering shall be done away. What a wonderful prospect: to see, feel and laugh with Jesus on a beautiful earth in imperishable, incorruptible bodies! We shall eat and drink with him in the kingdom, and enjoy life together with him forevermore! What a contrast to the false promises that the WT gives its people.
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