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Does Bible teach the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

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Does the Bible teach the
bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Table of Contents

Introduction

Verses where Jesus Christ predicted a bodily resurrection

The empty tomb

Did Steven blaspheme when he was being martyred?

Appearances by Jesus after His resurrection

When Jesus arose many bodies of the saints also arose

Bible verses used to disprove a bodily resurrection?

Conclusion

Notes:

  • You can freely use all or part of this study as the Lord leads you to witness to members of the Watchtower Society.
  • Any Witness is free to correct me if he feels that I have misrepresented any Watchtower Society doctrine. If I agree, I will fix my error and if I disagree, I will post what you think I have misrepresented with a link from the place you believe the error is on this page.
  • Unless noted, all bold emphasis [and all words in brackets] are the author's.

Introduction

This study is to help you witness to Jehovah's Witnesses when they knock on your door. While there are many doctrines that separate them from Christianity, their belief that Jesus did not resurrect bodily from the dead is one of the most surprising.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. - Romans 10:9

What did He mean, raise from the dead? When Witnesses come to your house to study, rather than study the Bible, they will want to study a booklet called What does the Bible really teach. This booklet shares many of the Watchtower Society's beliefs, yet it forgets to mention this one. So rather than studying the booklet and going down many different rabbit trails, it might be more profitable to share the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Verses where Jesus Christ predicted a bodily resurrection

Our first proof is that Jesus himself repeatedly predicted his bodily resurrection, for instance in the gospel of John chapter 2:

Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.

When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.
 - John 2:18-22 

Jesus said He would raise the same temple, (his body), and that this was to be a sign to us. If he did not rise bodily than His sign failed. While Jesus' disciples remembered this only after he rose from the dead (verse 22), His enemies remembered it when they crucified Him.

[Speaking to Pilot] Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.  So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
- Matthew 27:63-66

While the chief priests and the Pharisees (who were the religious leaders) did not believe Jesus was going to rise bodily from the dead, they did know that Jesus predicted a bodily resurrection. Another time when the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign Jesus said,

And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. - Luke 11:29-30

In this passage, Jesus taught that Jonah was an allegory of Himself. Unless Jesus had said otherwise, we would expect that as Jonah came out of the fish in the same body, Jesus would come back from in the same body. If this were not so, how could Jonah be a sign?

The empty tomb

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. - Matthew 28:5-6

Why did the angel present a missing body as evidence of the resurrection? A missing body is not evidence of a spiritual resurrection. Read the passage carefully, if Jesus did not resurrect bodily the angel was being misleading.

A few verses later, Matthew reports how the soldiers, who were guarding the tomb, told what they knew to the chief priests and then the chief priest's response.

Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. - Matthew 28:11-14

The soldiers were being told to lie, yet this lie is not much different then what the Watchtower Society teaches. As the soldiers said that His body was taken, the Watchtower Society also says that His body was taken.

The apostle John also gives an account of his visit to Jesus' tomb.

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple [John], and came to the sepulcher. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter and came first to the sepulcher. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. - John 20:3-9

Jesus could have risen spiritually even if His body was still in the tomb. A missing body does not provide evidence of a spiritual resurrection. When John saw the empty tomb, he believed that Jesus bodily rose from the dead. He did not report that angels or anybody else took the body. He did not speak of a spiritual resurrection from the dead. When he saw that body of Jesus was gone, he believed that He rose from the dead.

Did Steven blaspheme when he was being martyred?

And they stoned Stephen, calling [upon God], and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
- Acts 7:59

Mosaic Law forbids calling on the dead.

There shall not be found among you [...] a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
- Deuteronomy 18:10-12

A person with a familiar spirit and necromancers are people who believe they are talking to someone who has resurrected spiritually. Thus Steven would be sinning to call on Jesus if He were only a created being who experienced only a spiritual resurrection.

Appearances by Jesus after His resurrection

The other disciples therefore said unto [Thomas], We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace, be unto you.

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. - John 20:25-25-29

The other disciples had to be talking about a bodily resurrection. If they had only been talking about a spiritual resurrection Thomas would not have asked to see the nail prints. When Jesus said unto Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side" that would have led Thomas to believe that Jesus was in the same body that was crucified. If Jesus was not in the same body, is He not misleading Thomas? After His resurrection., Jesus repeatedly showed his disciples his hands and feet:

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 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 showed them his hands and his feet. - Luke 24:36-40

Again, to prove that Jesus was Himself, He showed His disciples Hi hands and feet. How could looking at His hands and feet prove His identity if they did not have nail scares? If this were a different body, Jesus would be misleading His disciples to believe those were the very hands and feet that were crucified. If Jesus was not misleading His disciples, than the Watchtower Society is.

A short time later on the day of Pentecost, Peter gave a sermon; here is a portion of it.

Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. - Acts 2:29-32

If Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead, Peter is misleading the people by contrasting Jesus' resurrection with David's body still being in a sepulcher. Peter is leading us to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. If an angel had taken away Jesus' body this would have been a good time to say it, instead no verse in the New Testament mentions Jesus' body being taken anywhere by an angel, or any other, after it was placed in the tomb.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. -  Romans 10:9

Is Paul teaching that we must only believe in a spiritual resurrection? Is this enough? Don't occult and pagan religions believe in the afterlife? Are they saved? Before Darwin and atheism most cultures believed in an a spiritual resurrection. So what merit is there in believing Jesus rose from the dead spiritually? What is the difference between the Watchtower Society's belief and a pagans' belief in the spiritual resurrection of Jesus?

When Jesus arose many bodies of the saints also arose

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
- Matthew 27:52-53

Note how the passage specifically says that their bodies arose. How could Jehovah raise their bodies if there is no bodily resurrection? There are many passages that teach the bodies of the saints will arise, however this is going beyond the scope of this study.

Bible verses used to disprove a bodily resurrection?

In a friendly talk with one Witness, he said he would get back to me on some specific verses. Yet he tried to reason that Jesus had to be in a different or spiritual body. For instance, after His resurrection Jesus could change His form so that He would not be recognized, He could spontaneously appear and disappear, and of course He could float on clouds. The following verse is an example.

After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. - Mark 16:12

Note how Mark said a different form and not a different body. The word form comes from the Greek word 'morphe' meaning shape or appearance. Jesus could and did change his appearance before He was crucified, for instance, when He was transfigured or meta-morpho-tha (changed form) before his apostles in Matthew 17. We use the word metamorphosis to describe how a caterpillar's body is transformed into a butterfly.

This next verse shows how Jesus could vanish after the resurrection because He had a spiritual body.

And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures? - Luke 24:30-32

Jesus did many miracles before His death; can anybody believe that He could not have vanished in this same way if He had wished to? While there is no record of Jesus vanishing in His pre-resurrection body, there is a record of an apostle who did:

And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. - Acts 8:39

This final verse shows how Jesus could float on clouds in His spiritual body.

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

Again, there is no record of Jesus floating in the air before His resurrection; however, there is a record of Him walking on water. After all the miracles Jesus did, it is only a lack of faith to believe that Jesus could not have floated in the air if He had wished to.

Conclusion

While the Watchtower Society never actually accuses Steven, Peter, the angel or Jesus of deception and blasphemy, they are guilty if Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead. Yet, if Jesus did arise bodily it is the Watchtower Society that is being deceptive.

Did Jesus lie when He said, ''Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up''? Or is the Watchtower Society lying when they say, He did not raise bodily from the dead? There are other passages on the resurrection, yet if the above passages cannot convince someone that the Bible teaches the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, they will not either. Many of the topics the Witnesses want to study out of their guides are not worth wasting time on, at best they only cause division in the body of Christ.

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. - Titus 3:9

It is the resurrection that is important; we must believe Jesus rose from the dead to be saved.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. - Romans 10:9

AND

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. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. -  Acts 17:31-32

Jehovah has given assurance to all men, in that he hath raised Jesus from the dead. Don't be counted with those who mock the resurrection.

Authored by Jeff Barnes


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Do not be afraid to study with the Witnesses. Just keep your study in the Bible without using their booklets. If you cannot answer a question, tell them you will get back to them and give me an email I will be glad to help.

If you are a Witness and you are reading this I know your friends and family will shun you if you should you openly believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. - Matthew 10:34-39