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“Was Jesus Raised As A Spirit Creature?”
AUTHOR: Bowman, Robert M. Jr.
PUBLISHED ON: May 2, 2003
DOC SOURCE: CCN

“Was Jesus Raised As A Spirit Creature?”
– Dialoguing With Jehovah’s Witnesses

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Copyright 1993 by the Christian Research Institute.
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“Was Jesus Raised as a Spirit Creature? Dialoguing With Jehovah’s
Witnesses on 1 Corinthians 15:44-50” (an article from the
Witnessing Tips column in the Christian Research Journal, Summer
1987, Volume 10, Number 1, page 7) by Robert M. Bowman, Jr. and
Brian A. Onken.
  The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot
Miller.
————-

    When witnessing to those who are trapped in a false belief
system, one is often confronted with “prooftexts” from the Bible
misinterpreted so as to appear to support their erroneous view. The
Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) are particularly well-trained to present
such misinterpretations of Scripture in a way that makes their
arguments seem very plausible. The Christian must learn to redirect
the conversation continually back to the context of biblical
teaching. A representation of how such a dialogue may progress will
be given here.

    A good example of this problem is the JWs’ use of biblical
prooftexts to argue that Jesus was not raised with His physical
body, but instead was recreated as a mere spirit and only appeared
in materialized bodies to the disciples for their sake. By far the
passage to which they appeal most often in this connection is 1
Corinthians 15:44-50.

    In particular, the JWs focus on the statement that “flesh and
blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom” (15:50; all quotations from the
New World Translation [NWT]). They reason that Jesus must have
given up flesh-and-blood physical existence in order to inherit
God’s kingdom. The Christian can begin his response by pointing out
that Paul does not stop halfway through the verse, but continues by
saying that “neither does corruption inherit incorruption.” This
parallel statement shows that Paul’s point is that it is the
corruption (perishability) due to sin, not our being human, that
prevents “flesh and blood” (an idiom for _mortal_ humanity) from
inheriting God’s kingdom.

    For further clarification the next two verses (51-52) should be
read, emphasizing Paul’s statement (which he stated twice) that “we
shall all be changed.” The Christian should then point out the
different views that are held as to the way in which this “change”
occurs. The JWs believe the “anointed class” of Christians (a
special class of heaven-bound Christians which they limit to
144,000) will be “changed” like Jesus by exchanging their physical
bodies for immaterial “spirit bodies,” while the “great crowd” (a
larger class of saved people who will live on earth forever) will
be raised with perfect physical bodies. Orthodox Christianity, on
the other hand, teaches that _all_ Christians will receive the same
kind of resurrection _body_ as Jesus (Phil. 3:21), a physical body
transformed and glorified to be sinless and immortal. The question
must be posed at this point, which view does the Bible here
support? Is incorruption and therefore God’s kingdom gained,
according to this passage, by taking off the physical body, or by
putting immortality on it?

    Once the JW has agreed that that is the question, he should be
directed to verse 53: “For this which is corruptible must _put on_
incorruption, and this which is mortal must _put on_ immortality.”
By emphasizing Paul’s words “put on,” you can help the Witness to
see that we must _put on_ to our humanity incorruption and
immortality, not that we must stop being human, to inherit God’s
kingdom. Therefore, it was not necessary for Jesus to give up his
physical existence, as the JWs teach.

    At this point, the JW may back up to verse 44, “if there is a
physical body, there is also a spiritual one,” to argue that Jesus
and the “anointed class” must have “spiritual bodies,” which JWs
interpret to mean immaterial bodies composed of spirit. In reply,
he may be asked to read 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, which says that “a
physical man does not receive the things of God,” but that “the
spiritual man examines indeed all things.” The JW should agree that
what Paul means is that a physical man without God’s Spirit will
not accept the truth of God’s word. Yet the contrast here is
between the exact same two words (in Greek as well as in English,
as can be shown using the JWs’ _Kingdom Interlinear Translation_ if
necessary). Clearly, the “spiritual” man in this text has not
ceased to have physical existence; the point is that the ultimate
source of his life is different from that of the (merely) physical
man. In like manner the “spiritual” body of 1 Corinthians 15:44 is
not an immaterial body, but one that is energized or enlivened by
the Spirit in a way that it was not beforehand. And so this verse
also is a prooftext _for,_ and not _against,_ the physical
resurrection of Jesus.

    The JW may then appeal in this passage to verse 45, where Paul
says that “the last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit.”
However, Christians do not deny that Christ is a spirit; they deny
that He is a _mere_ spirit, without any physical body. The issue
being discussed in 1 Corinthians 15:45 is not the substance of
Christ’s resurrection body, but the source of its life, as verse 47
makes clear. Adam’s life was natural, from earth; Christ’s life was
supernatural, from heaven. Indeed, “natural” and “supernatural” are
excellent translations of the words which the NWT renders
“physical” and “spiritual.”

    That Paul cannot be saying that Jesus is a mere spirit can be
verified from Luke 24:39, where Jesus says that “a spirit does not
have flesh and bones just as YOU behold that I have.” This
statement and 1 Corinthians 15:45 cannot both be true unless Jesus
means that He is not a mere spirit and Paul means that Jesus is a
man whose life is spiritual rather than natural.

    The teachings of JWs, because they are built upon a foundation
of prooftexts torn from their contexts, cannot stand up to a
careful examination of whole passages of Scripture. For this
reason, JWs typically do not work their way patiently through a
passage of Scripture, as we have outlined above. Instead, they tend
to flit from prooftext to prooftext in a kind of “shotgun”
approach. So Christians seeking to witness to JWs should be
prepared to respond either by giving a brief answer to the new
prooftext and then returning to the original passage under
discussion, or else ask the JW to wait and finish working though
one passage before jumping to another. In this way, they can
maintain some focus to the conversation and thereby confront the
Jehovah’s Witness more effectively with the true sense of biblical
teaching.

    Finally, the Christian should be prepared to follow up a
discussion of 1 Corinthians 15 with several other passages of
Scripture (such as Luke 24:39, already cited) where the physical
resurrection of Jesus is unequivocally stated. Acts 17:31 and 1
Timothy 2:5 both state that the risen Christ is “a man.” Peter
cited as proof that the Messiah would rise from the dead David’s
prophetic statement, “even my _flesh_ will reside in hope” (Acts
2:26, cf. 2:29-31) — which could not be true of Jesus unless His
flesh rose from the dead. In Matthew 28:6, the angel offered as
proof that Jesus was risen the fact that the tomb was empty —
which of course was irrelevant if His body was not raised. These
and other passages testify unmistakably to the physical
resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

————-
End of document, CRJ0006A.TXT (original CRI file name), “Was Jesus
Raised as a Spirit Creature? Dialoguing With Jehovah’s Witnesses on
1 Corinthians 15:44-50”
release A, August 20, 1993
R. Poll, CRI

(A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in
the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.)

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