Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus was resurrected, but "as a spirit creature." More specifically, they teach that at the resurrection, His body stayed dead but the tomb became empty because God hid Christ's body somewhere else.
Jesus Christ Stated That He Would Raise His Body
Note the contrast between Christ's teaching that He would raise His body, and the doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses: "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 2:19-22).
Christ's prophecy here was that He would raise His body. Would it have caused the disciples to believe if Jesus' prophecy had been wrong, and He had not raised His body but only His Spirit?
Your choice is clear. Believe the powerful teaching of the Bible that Christ would and did raise His body, or the weak reasoning of men who say He didn't!
Had Christ not been raised in the way that He said he would, a good time to explain what really happened would have been when the women went to the grave, found it empty and saw an angel who explained: "…He is not here, for he was raised up, as he said. Come see the place where he was lying." Why did the angel say, "He was raised up, as he said" if He had not been raised up as He said?
It would have been the perfect time to explain, "He was raised up spiritually, then God took His dead body and hid it." The anti-Biblical doctrine that Christ's body was not raised from the dead, but was taken and hidden originated in the minds of men and contradicts the Word of Jehovah.
For Old Testament prophecies that teach that Christ would be raised from the dead, see Psalm 16:10 and Isaiah 53:10-12. Read both in the Authorized Version.
After the Resurrection, Jesus Claimed that His Body Had Been Raised and Proved it
The disciples had a tendency to believe in ghosts, that is, spirits that at times materialized bodies so people could see them. Earlier, when they saw Christ walk on water, the disciples thought they had seen a ghost (Matt. 14:26; Mark 6:49). Since He knew they were thinking this again, He went out of His way to prove that this was really His body: "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 shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them" (Luke 24:37-43).
Note that Jesus first said: "It is I myself," and then proved that He had real flesh and bones.
When people who were not there contradict this and say the disciples saw a spirit creature, you must decide whether to believe their word, or the Word of Jehovah.
Though at first it seemed too good to be true, after seeing and feeling Christ's body, with the wounds in His hands and feet, the disciples believed, and "returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Luke 24:52). When they thought they were seeing a spirit they were "frightened" and "troubled". When they knew it was Christ Himself; that He had flesh and bones and could eat, they experienced "great joy." The joy of believing in Christ's resurrection is a joy which you can and should share.
Thomas was not present when Jesus showed the disciples his resurrected body, and he did not believe their testimony. In fact, he told those who had been present that he would not believe unless he could touch the wounds. Jesus visited the disciples again and what he told Thomas will help you too: "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 20:27-29).
Seeing and touching Christ's body with the wounds convinced Thomas, but through this Scripture, Jesus is also talking to you, "Happy are those who do not see and yet believe." Are you skeptical? Don't assume that Jesus must be wrong because His words contradict what you have been told by people you respect. Put Him to the test! Believe that He is your Lord and your God, who really rose from the dead. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
What Should Our Witness Be?
We saw in the previous chapter that those who follow God in New Testament times are to be Christ's witnesses. Now we will see that our witness about Christ is to focus on His death for sins, and particularly on His resurrection, because His death and resurrection are crucial to salvation.
Before He returned into heaven, Jesus said: "…thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things" (Luke 24:46-47).
Are you a witness to others of the power of Christ's death and resurrection to bring forgiveness for sins?
What Was the Witness of the Apostles?
An example of Peter's witness is found in a sermon of his which is recorded in Acts 2. He quotes Psalm 16:8-10, explaining that it is speaking of Jesus (Read it in the AV). He gets to the point in Acts 2:27 where the Psalm he is quoting says of Christ: "Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."
Peter goes on to explain that David: "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 2:31-32).
Peter said that Jesus's flesh did not see corruption; just what had been prophesied in the Old Testament.
All of those first believers gave witnesses to this, as should each one who follows Jehovah and believes His word. Do not be deceived, Christ's resurrection was not just spiritual, nor was his body hidden like that of Moses in some other place where, baring a miracle, it would "see corruption". The men that teach that God hid the body must either say that His body did see corruption, or make up a whole new kind of miracle, the perpetual conservation of the body. Why should we reject the Biblical miracle of the resurrection to make up a harder one? Our testimony should be the uncorrupted one given by the Apostles. "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:33). See also Acts 3:14-15; 5:30-32, 10:40-41, 1 Cor. 15:1-4.
Your Salvation Depends on Christ's Resurrection
- "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17, see also 1 Cor. 15:16-21, Col. 2:12-13).
- "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel… by which also ye are saved, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
Having seen that your salvation depends on your believing that Christ died, and was raised again according to the Scriptures, you are ready for Acts 13:32-39, a passage similar to that which we have already read in Acts 2. Please read the whole passage from your Bible as I only have room to quote parts of it:
- "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus… no more to return to corruption… Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption… But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption… through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."
You can either believe God's word and be declared guiltless, or believe someone else's ideas that are contrary to the Scriptures and try to save yourself in some other way, but you will not really be saved unless you believe in the real Christ who died for your sins and rose from the dead, body and spirit. "…And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17).
The good news is, Christ has been raised up and the resurrected Christ saves those who trust in Him. Why not trust Him to save you now? Why risk remaining another minute in your sins?
Arguments to the Contrary
To uphold the theory that Christ's body was not resurrected, some quote a few passages which can be understood in more than one way. One says, "…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." The passage continues however, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… For this corruptible must put on incorruption…" (1 Cor. 15:50-53). Changed! Our corruptible body will put on incorruptibility. The verse does not even infer that Christ's body was substituted with a new materialized one, or that that might be our fate. The body will be changed, putting on incorruptibility. It will not be substituted with a materialized body as might seem to be the case if one stopped reading before verse 53. Always read the whole passage.
Some also quote: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (1 Pet. 3:18-19).
This passage has been used to teach that after the resurrection, Christ was alive only spiritually. While the New World Translation says that Christ was made alive "in the spirit," others use the equally good translation "by the Spirit" which says nothing about the state of His body one way or the other.
However, it is the timing which is important! When was it that He preached to the spirits in prison? Most probably it occurred while his body was in the tomb, rather than after his resurrection. In fact, a few verses ahead, the passage speaks of where He went after the resurrection and ascension: "He is at God's right hand for he went his way to heaven…" (1 Pet. 3:22).
How Did Christ Raise Others?
The idea that the Lord Jesus Christ's body was taken away by God to be buried like that of Moses is a completely man made doctrine without any Biblical basis whatsoever. It not only contradicts the many passages which we have just quoted, but is also highly unlikely when one remembers the others that Christ raised. Lazarus and all the rest were raised physically. Christ never raised anyone just spiritually as the Watchtower says that He Himself was raised (John 11-43-44; Matt. 9:25; Luke 7:14-15).
How Can Your Body Be Raised?
"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:11).
By the reasoning of the Jehovah's Witnesses, many of the people who first received this letter would have been included in the 144,000. Since they were able to live in heaven with resurrected bodies, the line of reasoning that says that Christ could not is obviously false.
If you trust Christ as Savior and receive His Spirit, when you die, your mortal body will be made alive like that of Jesus.
Jehovah's Witness Leaders Believe in Bodily Resurrection
You will remember from chapter two that the Jehovah's Witness leaders strongly believed: "…the faithful men of old will soon be resurrected by the Lord on the earth, and take charge of the visible affairs of earth." As a testimony to this faith, they built a house around 1929 for the Old Testament patriarchs to live in when they returned to earth. (See the quote at the end of chapter two). They built the house despite the fact that the Watchtower Society had been wrong previously when they had predicted that the return of the Old Testament faithful would occur in 1914, 1915, 1918 and 1925.
Spirits don't need houses! Bodies need houses! The leaders of the Watchtower Society built a house because they knew God raises people's bodies. They believed the "faithful men of old," would be resurrected with their bodies. But at the same time they refused to admit this about Christ, in spite of the clear teaching of the word of Jehovah: "…that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3-4).