Spiritual Bodies, Mutually Exclusive Words?
What in the world is a spiritual body? Is there such a thing? At face value, these two words compared, contrasted, and simply put side by side are mutually exclusive. Absent a Biblical definition and explanation, they are a contradiction of terms. A human body plus a human spirit equal a human being. Right? Of course, right! But a body that is a spirit or a spirit that is a body (spiritual body) just doesn’t compute. Spiritual body is a striking example of that odd but also ordinary word, Oxymoron.
Webster’s dictionary tells us that oxymoron comes from two Greek words: Oxys, meaning sharp or keen. Plus, moros, which means foolish. The resulting definition from Webster’s Dictionary: “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness).”
In other words, what otherwise keenly intelligent person would foolishly identify someone as cruelly kind? But when it comes to things spiritual such as what God accomplished through his amazing grace and kindness when Jesus Christ willingly died on that cruel cross, Scripture tells us: “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).
Referring again to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul states: “It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:22-24).
What exactly is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? And how does that relate to or explain whether there is or can be such a thing as a spiritual body? Not the human body that houses the human spirit, one in which the spirit is separated from the body at death; rather an indivisible union of spirit and body in which the two distinct entities are inseparably one essence. So much so that it takes two words to describe this phenomenon … spiritual body.
Let’s continue in I Corinthians where we will find one of the most basic and precise descriptions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all of Scripture. The Apostle Paul writes:
“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).
First, a brief comment on, “just as the Scriptures said.” There are several things that distinguish the Bible and Christianity from man-made religions in the world, but three that irrefutably confirm that the Bible is the Word of the true and living God; therefore, that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation, i.e. being made right with God.
- Hundreds of prophecies that have come to pass. No other religion or so-called sacred texts have such eschatological proof to back up their claims. In fact, they make few, if any, predictions about the future because they know their god or gods or prophets cannot make them come to pass.
- Numerous supernatural miracles performed by God, Messiah Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.
- Above all, Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. “…and he was raised from the dead on the third day…”
Resurrection from the Grave … That’s What It Is All About!
Just a few days before he would lay down his life as a ransom for our sins, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Shortly before that he explained to his disciples, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity” (John 12:23-25).
The Apostle Paul used this same analogy of a seed dying only to produce new life. That this renewed life will, in turn, produce the oxymoron marvel of spiritual bodies.
Jesus declared to Martha (and the whole world): “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this, Martha?” (John 11:25-26).
Just minutes after Messiah Jesus made this remarkable claim about himself, he raised Martha and Mary’s brother, Lazarus, from the dead! But notice that Jesus asked Martha if she believed that he was (I AM) life itself—the author and essence of life and life everlasting—as well as the very source of (bodily) resurrection before he raised Lazarus from the grave. Would she, could she believe on the basis of what Jesus had said and done up to this point in time—his claims of being Messiah, Son of God, and his mighty miracles to demonstrate that he was who he said he was—that he could do something about the tragic untimely death of her brother? Both Martha and Mary firmly believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus before he died. But the Lord didn’t and Lazarus died.
Even before that, Jesus told Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” With Martha’s response conveying what some Jews believed, “Yes … he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day” (John 11:23-24). However, many Jews and most Gentiles, especially the Greeks and Jewish Sadducees, did not believe in a bodily resurrection; if there was a resurrection, it would only be the human spirit. This, despite the fact that Job long before had recognized this astonishing truth: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives; and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!” (Job 19:25-26).
Then Jesus raised Lazarus right then and there to prove two primary things to Mary, Martha, and the watching world: (1) I love you and Lazarus, and I’m bringing him back to you and to me. (2) I will prove to you and to everyone that I have the power over life and death.
This mighty and moving demonstration of resurrection by the Lord was a real-life application experience of the dramatic doctrinal truth of John 3:16. As a result, “Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen” (John 11:45).
Lazarus and the little girl raised by Jesus, as well as each boy raised by the prophets Elijah and Elisha, were prototypes, because each of those raised from the dead had to die again. They were primarily proof that there can be and will be a resurrection from the dead. When Jesus told Martha that he was the resurrection and the life, he was looking ahead to his own (special) resurrection; followed by a great resurrection harvest of all who believed in him. But Jesus was referring to the immortal, incorruptible spiritual body that the Apostle Paul would further explain to believers in I Corinthians Chapter 15.
Just a few days later Jesus proved beyond doubt that he was the Son of God and the reality of the eternal spiritual body resurrection by being the first to rise from the dead with a glorified body—the very body that he now has and forever will have. And though he was the first and the greatest to be given such a body, he has promised that all those who believe and receive him as personal Savior and Redeemer will also be given such a glorified spiritual body.
Not a body that contains a spirit, but a body that is spirit!
That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “…The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him” (John 13:31). Glory in Scripture means the very essence of whom or what is being described, i.e. the glory of God and a glorified body.
The Power of the Gospel
What is it that has compelled and persuaded me and millions of people down through the ages, including some who are reading this article, to believe and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Thereby, staking our eternal destiny on this faith and the object of our faith which convinces us that God can be trusted to save us from our sins and from the Tribulation to come, and give us eternal life through His Son.
We are compelled by the amazing love of God expressed in his Grace freely bestowed through the precious gift of his son, Messiah Jesus. It is the greatest gift ever given, purchased by the highest price ever paid (not our purchase with good works or self-worth, but God’s purchase), the very blood and life of Jesus Christ—the righteous for the unrighteous, the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty.
We are persuaded by the very cornerstone of our belief and trust: the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Son of God, Son of David, and Son of Man reigns from heaven and will soon return to reign on this earth … in the same glorified, spiritual body that was his when he left the grave. All other religious founders or leaders are still in their graves. But not the Lord. Our Redeemer lives!
It is a historical fact that Jesus Christ arose from the dead. Returning to our passage in I Corinthians Chapter 15, immediately after Paul encapsulates the good news of salvation into the simple truth of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, he affirms: “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time … Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him” (Verses 5-8).
It never ceases to amaze me that so many people for so long have denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or are essentially indifferent to it. Most of those who deny or seriously doubt it do so for two main reasons: (1) they don’t believe or don’t want to believe the authenticity of the Bible. (2) They simply don’t want to accept the clear evidence as it doesn’t fit with what they want out of life. Which was emphatically expressed by Jesus in a verse quoted earlier: Those who love their life in this world will lose it.
Time and space does not permit an in-depth validation of the reliability of the Bible in this article. Except to say that as important as the Bible is to eternal doctrinal truth of mankind’s lost and sinful condition and God’s majestic plan of salvation for the human race, these truths are interwoven into and throughout an incredibly meticulous historical account of individuals, nations, places, times, and events. Both religious and secular scholars who are truly objective consider the Bible to be even more historically reliable than many secular historians. There are thousands more complete or partial manuscripts of the books of the Bible than the closest number of manuscripts to it, which is Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, both of which are fiction.
In other words, if someone is going to deny or even seriously question the historical fact that Jesus arose from the grave, as confirmed by hundreds of witnesses who saw him sometime during the forty days after his resurrection (before his ascension back to heaven), then they should also reject any and all secular historical accounts of, for example, the life and times of Augustus Caesar. Once again: Although the Bible is indeed a book of faith, it is much more than that. It is a historically reliable account of people, places, and events that provide an authentic backdrop of God’s interaction with the human race from the first Adam to the last Adam and beyond.
Then there are those who acknowledge the fact or at least the possibility that Christ arose from the dead but who are nonetheless indifferent to his resurrection. That is particularly true of 20th & 21st century folks. It’s like, “that’s nice, even pretty impressive, but what does it have to do with me?”
Well, if Jesus, himself, said it has everything to do with every person on this earth, might that not be a strong clue to listen up and take what he said and did to heart. As indicated earlier, when Jesus asked Martha, he asked everyone, “Do you believe this…” Believe what? Believe what Jesus had just told Martha and every person on this planet: “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Don’t miss next week’s Part II article when we’ll do some in-depth examination of the Spiritual Body.
Things to Ponder
Shortly after Jesus had fed a multitude of thousands with just five barley loaves and two fish, some in the crowd said, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” (John 6:28).
Jesus didn’t give them a long list of religious requirements or do-good philosophies, because he knew they couldn’t keep the Law of Moses, nor does the law or good works bring salvation in the first place. Thus, his answer was simple. Only one thing is required:
“This is the only work God wants from you. Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).
That’s it, that’s all, you might say.
Yes, that’s all.
The Philippian jailor pleaded with the Apostle Paul and Silas who had just prevented the jailor from committing suicide. The jailor asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…” Acts 16:30-31).
As the Apostle John said in one of his epistles, “And this is what God has testified. He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (I John 5:11-12).
Do you believe this?