By Ronald R. Day, Senior
Trinitarians and some others claim that Luke 24:39 proves that Jesus was raised in his human body from the grave, and that Jesus is still a human being of flesh and bones. It is claimed that the nature of Christ is twofold, one of God-being and another of human-being. It is claimed that only his human being died, while his God being continued to exist, and that it was his God-being that raised his human body from death.
Jesus certainly did raise his body for the appearances in the locked room; however, there is no scripture that says that Jesus arose in his human body from the grave. Jesus, in being raised from the grave, was given a body by his father as is true of all who are to be raised from the dead in the last day. (1 Corinthians 15:35-38) Jesus is not still a human being a little lower than the angels. (Hebrews 2:9) Jesus is no longer in the “days of his flesh.” (Hebrews 5:7) He is now a “life-giving spirit”. — 1 Corinthians 15:45, New American Standard translation.
All must agree that Jesus is now a spirit being. The trinitarian claims that Jesus is indeed God, and thus Jesus must be an invisible spirit being, since God is spirit. (John 4:24; Colossians 1:15) So even from the trinitarian standpoint, Jesus is a spirit being. However, many trinitarians, and some others, will contradict this by quoting Jesus’ statement: “a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see that I have,” and then claim that Jesus was saying that he is not a spirit being, but a human of flesh and bones. They do no seem to reason very well on this, for if he is not a spirit, then he must not be God, and he must only be a human of flesh and bones. Of course Jesus is indeed a spirit being, even as God is a spirit being. Jesus was not saying that he was not a spirit being here, because he most definitely was raised as a spirit being. — 1 Peter 3:18.
So evidently when Jesus said “a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see that I have,” he is speaking of a certain kind of spirit, the kind of spirit that the disciples thought he might be. So what kind of spirit would this be? The context, and other scriptures, help us to gain some understanding, by comparing what God has revealed through his holy spirit, comparing spiritual revealing with spiritual revealing. — 1 Corinthians 2:10,12,13.
Of course, spirit beings usually do not have a flesh and bone body. However, angels, who are spirits (Hebrews 1:7,14; Psalm 104;4) have appeared many times with flesh bodies. In such cases they were not flesh, but they did manifest themselves in such a way that they were called “men,” even eating and drinking. Were they actually men? No. But in their appearance, in their manifestation, they were ‘men’. — Genesis 18:2; 19:1,8,12,15; Judges 6:11-22; 13:11,20; Joshua 5:13-15.
We know that the angels that sinned also were allowed to take on a form of humans before the flood of Noah’s day. Evidently this privilege was taken away from them, since we do not see them doing this today. Instead, these spirits at times make appearances as phantoms, without bodies of bones and flesh.
Thus we can see the possibility that Jesus was actually in his own fleshly body in which he died at this scene, for he could have produced it for this purpose, even though he was a spirit being, in a manner similar to the angels who appeared as men as recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Returning to our question concerning Jesus statement, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones”, we need to note carefully the context of Luke 24:39 as to what had happened before and also similar experiences in other scriptures, as we stated earlier, comparing spritual revealment with spiritual revealment.
“But they were terrified and affrightened, 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.” — Luke 24:37-39.
The disciples were afraid because they thought they had seen a spirit, the word “spirit” is being used as a phantom — a manifestation, a resemblance, produced by a wicked spirit, usually pretending to be the spirit of a dead person. (Luke 24:37) The disciples were aware of God’s law forbidding communicating with such spirits (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10,11), and that it was forbidden for a spirit medium to be in the land of Israel (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10,11; 1 Samuel 28:7-9); thus they had reason for concern that such a spirit might appear to them. They certainly would not want to be used as a medium by such spirits.* Matthew 12:12,18 identifies such spirits a unclean spirits, demons.
*See the Dawn study on “Spiritualism — Its Claims”
On a different occasion, we read: “But when they saw him [Jesus] walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out.” (Mark 6:49) Matthew reports the same incident as: “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” (Matthew 14:26) The Greek word translated “spirit” in these accounts is Strong’s #5326, phantasma, meaning “a mere show”, or “simulacrum”, as in an appearance or apparition like a human form made by a wicked spirit.
In Luke 24:37, the wording is similar, “But they were terrified and filled with fear, and supposed that they saw a spirit.” However, the Greek word translated “spirit” here is not *phantasma*, but rather Strong’s 4151, *pneuma*, meaning, breath, or in usage, force, energy, spirit, and has a variety of applications. It is the word used in Matthew 24:12,18 of demons.
The following is a list of some of the scriptures where *pneuma* is used of demons: Matthew 8:16; 10:1; 12:43,45; Mark 1:23,26,27; 3:11,30; 5:2,8,13; 6:7; 7:25; 9:17,20,25; Luke 4:33,36; 6:18; 7:21; 8:2,55; 9:39,42; Luke 10:20; 11:24,26; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:16,18; 19:12,15,16; Ephesians 6:21; 1 Peter 3:19; Revelation 16:13,14.
Since the flood of Noah’s day we only read of God’s obedient angels being permitted at times to materialize in the form of men, as in Judges 13:3-20, where an angel of Jehovah appeared to the mother and father of Samson. They thought they were talking to a man, but it was an angel, because he ascended in the flame of the altar and disappeared. Likewise, we read in Genesis 18:2-19;25, when Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw three men coming to him, and he greeted them, he made them welcome, and prepared a meal, and they ate and talked with Abraham. Paul, mentioning them, said that we should not forget to entertain strangers, because some had entertained angels without knowing it. In other words, because these angels appeared with a body of bones and flesh, they were assumed to be men, not spirit beings. (Hebrews 13:2) Paul is referring to exactly what Abraham did when he entertained those angels without knowing they were angels. They appeared as men, and they were men to all intents and purposes until they had performed their work, and then they dematerialized the fleshly form of man and returned to the spirit realm. So just as the angels of Jehovah appeared to Abraham, ate with him, and talked with him, and had all the functions of men, just so with the angels prior to the flood. All the angels had this power, and not merely the good angels, for they were all originally good.
But some of God’s angels disobeyed God, left their original estate as angels, and materialized in the form of men. They preferred not only to materialize in the human form to appear to man, but preferred to live as human beings. They left their habitation, the spirit realm, and lived as men in the world, and they had wives. They raised families.* Their children were spoken of as “men of renown.” They were gigantic in size. God saw that the whole earth was being corrupted by the influence of these disobedient angels. The imagination of the human mind was evil, and only evil, and that continually. Therefore God said: “I will destroy man from the face of the earth.” “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:7,13) So Jehovah destroyed those giants as well as all mankind, save Noah and his wife, his two sons and their wives.
See the study, “Thousands of Demons Infest Earth’s Atmosphere”:
Peter and Jude tell us that those angels who sinned at that time were sentenced by God. (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6) They were restrained in chains — not literal chains, but chains of darkness, so that they could not materialize in the form of man, so that they could not come out, so to speak, during the day.
These demons, or disobedient angels, had been cast out by Jehovah from his realm of spiritual light into a realm of spiritual darkness. Today, as in the days of Jesus, these demons are still not permitted to materialize in the form of human flesh. But often they do something else: they take possession of human bodies. They get into a person’s body in order to continue themselves in their desires to live as humans, and in so doing they continue themselves as servants of the original serpent, Satan the Devil. We read that on one such occasion, there was a legion of these demons in one man. They said: “My name is Legion, for we are many.” God has given all of us a will whereby we may resist these intrusions. These demons are working more actively today than ever before. They represent themselves as being “ghosts”, “disembodied spirits”, “aliens from other planets”, and they even possess a person when he is a near-death condition, giving them “visions” of “heaven”, “hell”, “Paradise”, “Jesus”, “Mohammed”, “Buddha”, or whatever else a person might have a tendency to believe in. They know all about people who have died, so they can easily impersonate a dead person. Likewise, they can give persons all sorts of visions, or false “memories” about things that never really happened, or of another person’s life hundreds or even thousands of years before you were born. All of this activity is happening in order to keep people from looking into the truth about the only way provided by Jehovah to come to him, that is, through his Son, Jesus, less any might come to a knowledge of the truth, and, especially to keep any from developing into receiving joint-heirship with Christ. If the thought that the number of 144,000 is to be taken literally, or that this number represents a limitation, regardless of how many, who are to become joint-heirs, then we can see why it would be of concern to the fallen angels to keep as many as possible under deception, for once the number is sealed, then the time for their abyssment and judgment will shortly follow.
With this background, we can understand that Jesus demonstrated that his appearance or manifestation (Strong’s 5319 — used in Mark 16:12,14; John 21:1,14) was not that of demon, by producing his fleshly body and temporarily inhabiting the fleshly body he had died in (not his resurrection body, his heavenly, spiritual body.) The flesh he used for these appearances no longer had the life or soul in it, and thus Jesus does not refer to its blood (the life [nephesh, sentiency, soul] of the flesh in in the blood — Leviticus 17:11), so instead of describing it as a body of flesh and blood, Jesus described it as a body of flesh and bones. (verse 39) This is appropriate because Jesus was now a spirit being, and did not take back his human soul (Hebrew, nephesh, Greek, psyche) which he had made an offering for humanity’s sin. (Isaiah 53:10,12; Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 10:11,15,17; 13:37; 15:13 – The Greek word for soul, psuche, is often translated as “life”) He only temporarily incarnated himself into his former human body for the purpose of demonstrating that it was actually him, and not some demon spirit impersonating him.
Thus we see that there is nothing in Jesus’ appearance that would lead us to believe that Jesus, although now exalted above the angels, is yet encumbered with a human body of flesh lower than the angels. Paul, in speaking of resurrection bodies, and in answer to the question as to what kind of body one is raised with (1 Corinthians 15:35), after describing flesh bodies here on earth (1 Corinthians 15:39), makes a sharp distinction between heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies, using illustrations of the sun, moon and stars, to describe the glories of heavenly bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:40,41) Instead of saying, “Don’t you know that you will receive back your present body, only glorified with a spiritual body, he speaks of a seed, as though developing into the body that will be, according to what was sown. Those who sow earthly fruitage only receive earthly bodies. Those who go beyond the earthly seed into the heavenly seed receive heavenly, spiritual bodies. Paul does not mix the two. Earthly bodies are earthly. Heavenly bodies are heavenly. The Christian, in whom the seed of righteousness is sown, receives either one or the other in the resurrection, according to the level of sowing.
See: “The Manner of the Resurrection”
Therefore, when the disciples thought they had seen an apparition of a wicked spirit, Jesus did materialize his body of flesh in order to show them that he is not such a wicked spirit, for the demons are restrained from taking on the form of flesh.
The Empty Tomb
Some refer to the empty tomb of Jesus as proof that Jesus’ body was raised from the dead. Actually, the fact that the tomb was empty does not prove anything one way or the other. All it was designed to prove was that Jesus was raised from the dead.
The apostles at this time had not yet received any understanding of a resurrection of anything other than a physical body. The spirit of truth had not yet been given to them. (John 7:39; 16:31; Acts 1:6) Even after receiving the revealing through the holy spirit, while the truth was revealed especially to the apostles (John 16:4-13; Galatians 1:12; Ephesian 3: 5; 2 Timothy 2:2), many still had problems with understanding what kind of body one is raised with. — 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:1; Hebrews 5:12.
The disciples had seen Jesus raise various ones to life, and in each instance the body of the individual became alive again. Thus, the apostles during the period before the outpouring of the holy spirit, would have associated the resurrection with the body. Although the apostles apparently had begun to preach something concerning a spiritual body in the resurrection, this evidently was causing some confusion amongst believers, since the questions were raised: How are the dead raised?” and, “With what kind of body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35) The apostle Paul showed that there are two basic kinds of bodies in the resurrection, that of a heavenly, spiritual body, and that of an earthly, physical body. He showed that Jesus now has a spiritual body, that he is now a “life-giving spirit”. Thus it seems probable that it was some time after Jesus’ ascension that it became clear that Jesus was raised, not in a physical, earthly body, but with a mighty spirit body.
See our studies:
With What Body Shall We Be Raised?”
and The Manner of the Resurrection
Thus, when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the locked room, the disciples probably had no concept of anyone being raised with a spiritual body. The scriptural account shows that Thomas was not present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. To convince them that he had indeed been raised, Jesus showed his apostles “his hands and his side.” (John 20:20; Luke 24:39) This he did because they thought they were seeing a spirit — a phantom, a demon who was impersonating Jesus. (Luke 24:38) Thomas, later hearing of this, said, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” — John 20:25.
It has been suggested that perhaps Thomas felt hurt and left out at being the last to witness the resurrection; regardless, he was being a little stubborn concerning this whole matter. In effect, his demand insinuated that the others had not required enough proof, and they may have been deceived. This also fits the above argument concerning the apostles fear that they had seen a spirit — a demon masquerading as Jesus — instead of actually seeing Jesus. However, Thomas should have remembered Jesus’ earlier testimony concerning himself, “they will kill him; and when he is killed, on the third day he will rise again.” (Mark 9:31) Extreme though Thomas may have been, when Jesus presented himself in his body, and showed the marks Thomas requested, Thomas believed fully.
Thomas demonstrated a lack of faith by insisting upon being able to put his hand into the side of Jesus, but it does demonstrate how much thought was associated with the “body” regarding the resurrection, a thought that had to be later removed through the apostle Paul. How easily the church later was led astray in believing the resurrection of the body rather than the soul, which they had come to believe was immortal. That is one the great mistakes to take root in the church – The Apostle’s Creed, while correct in every other matter, errs in this matter – stating “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” After receiving the enlightment of the holy spirit, Paul says, “You foolish one [one fooled] … God gives it [the seed sown] a body [in the resurrection day] even as it pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own.” — 1 Corinthians 15:36,38.
After being raised from the dead, we know that Jesus did not always use the same form (morphe) when he made his appearances, manifestations. (phaneroo) After these things he was revealed (phaneroo) in another form (morphe – outward appearance) to two of them, as they walked, on their way into the country. — Mark 16:12. (Some claim that this verse was not written by Mark. However, even if it was not written by him, whoever wrote it showed that he/she thought that Jesus appeared in different forms, and that such a thought existed at some time in the early church.) Afterward he was revealed (phaneroo) to the eleven themselves as they sat at the table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they didn’t believe those who had seen him after he had risen. (Mark 16:14) After these things, Jesus revealed (phaneroo) himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias. He revealed (phaneroo) himself this way. (John 21:1) This was the third time that Jesus was revealed (phaneroo) to his disciples, after he had risen from the dead. — John 21:14
But what about the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection? Did they not see Jesus’ body being raised? Actually, there were no human witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Read all the accounts given in the Bible, and you will not find one human witness of his resurrection. All that any human witnessed was the empty tomb after the resurrection of Jesus. What we have recorded for us is recorded in Acts 2:31, that “neither was his soul left in Hades, nor did his flesh see decay.” We also have recorded that there were women and then later Mary who were witnesses of the empty tomb. Later Peter and John also saw the empty tomb. There were also soldier who confirmed that the tomb was empty. But none of these witnesses actually witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.
When Jesus was buried we read that his body was “bound … in linen cloths with spices, as the custom of the Jews.” (John 19:40) Had it been understood, they would have known that Jesus’ body did not need any spices, for it was foretold that his body would not see corruption, decay. (Psalm 16:10) After the Sabbath, the two Marys, evidently with some others, brought more spices to anoint his body (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1), an angel appeared and rolled away the stone from the door. (Matthew 28:2) Luke speaks of two angels who asked them: “”Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) One of the angels told them that Jesus had risen. — Mark 16:5,6.
Later two of the disciples came to the tomb, and they saw the linen cloths in the tomb. (Luke 24:12; John 20:5,6) No mention is made of the spices.
After being raised from the dead, Jesus “appeared to over five hundred brothers at once.” (1 Corinthians 15:6) Last of all he was seen of Paul as one born out of due season, shining above the sun at noonday. (1 Corinthians 15:6-8)
We need to note something very important regarding Jesus’ appearances: all of these appearances were to those who accepted him as the Messiah sent by God; not once did he appear to non-believers. If Jesus had appeared to Annias, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod, Caesar, the Roman Senate, he certainly could have put the “fear of God into their hearts”, as some say. Why didn’t he appear to others? Because the truth is not for the non-believers, it is only for believers. Of the unbelieving religious leaders, Jesus said: “They are blind guides of the blind. If the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But to his disciples, he said: “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them.” (Matthew 13:11) Additionally, if the enemies of Jesus had seen, then out of their evil hearts they could have borne evil testimony (Matthew 12:34; 15:19), or God’s purposes could have been otherwise twarted. In due time, the world will understand, but for the present the world is kept in darkness.
See our study:
Understanding the Mysteries of God
Had Jesus’ body been left in the tomb, then Jesus’ enemies could have displayed the body as proof that he had not been raised. The scriptures reveals that they posted guards to make sure that his body was not removed. is to prevent any of Jesus’ enemies from showing proof that The empty tomb was bad news for Jesus’ enemies. They had it guarded to prevent the body from being carried away. When the angel rolled away the entrance to Jesus’ tomb, we read that that “the guards shook, and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:4) The body was gone. Some of the guards went into the city and told the chief priests what had happened. (Matthew 28:11) The evil heart of these priests can be seen in that they bribed these guards to spread the rumor that the “his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.” (How could they know what happened if they were sleeping? — Matthew 28:12-14) But, had Jesus’ body remained in tomb, they could offered it as proof that Jesus had not been raised. Nevertheless, it is noted that they did not send out any kind of search party in an effort to try to find the body, which they surely would have done had they disbelieved the guard’s report. There is nothing in the scriptures that indicate that they actually believed that Jesus’ body was stolen. Thus the empty tomb did provide a problem for these enemies, who evidently did recognize the truth of implications, that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but sought to cover up that truth.
Nevertheless, it evidently was not Jesus’ purpose to demonstrate at that time that he had been raised without his former body. His disciples, at that time, were not looking for a risen Jesus in a spiritual body (1 Peter 3:18; 1 Corinthians 15:45), but they were looking for a flesh and blood Jesus. Thus, the empty tomb provided evidence of the resurrection.
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1 Peter 3:18 – Raised in the Spirit
Jesus Has Come in the Flesh
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