Three Views on the Resurrection


In this article, we examine three views on the general (eschatological) resurrection: 1) the Individual/Physical Body View, 2) the Collective/Metaphoric Body View, and 3) the Individual/Spiritual Body View. We will conclude that the Individual/Spiritual Body View is the only scripturally defensible view and the one taught by Christ and the apostles and prophets. 

Sin, Death, and Atonement 

God told our first ancestors that in the day they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would surely die (Gen. 2:17).  However, after their fall, God spared the couple and instituted instead a law of substitutes, by which the blood of another could ransom the soul from the debt of sin.  We know that God also clothed the man and the woman with skins to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:21).  Since skins require a death, the implication is that God ordained that sheep or goats be slain in atonement for the couple's sin.[1]  Thus, the death they should have died that day, was avoided by the death of a lamb or goat sacrificed in their place. 

"For the life of the flesh is the blood: and I have given it to you upon the alter to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."  Lev. 17:11 

However, blood of animals cannot purge away sins (Heb. 10:1-4). Hence, the sacrifices ordained by God stood as prophetic types and foreshadows, looking ahead to the cross of Christ.  God thus promised a Seed who would save the man and woman from their helpless estate. 

"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.  Gen. 3:15 

The woman in this passage stands for the people of God, the bride of heaven.  The promised Seed is Christ. The serpent stands for the power of sin and death. The serpent's seed are unregenerate men and the children of unbelief.  Sin and death personified in the serpent would "bruise" (bite) Christ's heel in his crucifixion. Christ would "bruise" (crush) the serpent's head by the power of his substitutionary death and atoning sacrifice, and the resurrection from the dead.  Hence, when Paul wrote "the sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law" (I Cor. 15:56), it is to the venom of the serpent that his simile alludes.  But God gives us the victory in Christ, who paid the debt of the law, robbing sin of its power (Col. 2:14, 15). 

Place and State of the Dead prior to Resurrection 

Physical death was not the full penalty for sin.  The body merely houses the spirit of man. Sin's poison meant that the spirit, too, must die.  Eternal death in the lake of fire awaits every soul of man who dies outside of the saving grace of Christ (Rev. 20:15; Matt. 25:41-46).  God thus reserved the souls of the wicked unto the day of judgment, when they would suffer eternal death.   

"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them to chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment, and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of eh ungodly" etc.  II Pet. 2:4, 5 

The English word "angel" is misleading here.  When we hear the word "angels," we think of supernatural beings. However, the Greek word "angelos" simply signifies a "messenger" and is used many times in scripture for men (Matt. 11:10, John the Baptist; Lk. 7:24, messengers of John; Lk. 9:52, messengers of Christ; Jam. 2:25, spies received by Rahab).  Angels cannot sin; the seed of all sin is the flesh (Rom. 7:18; Gal. 5:19-21; Jam. 1:14-15). Since angels are spirit and not flesh, they cannot be tempted with sin.[2]  Hence, the "angels" in this passage are best understood, not as supernatural beings, but men. Specifically, they are the "sons of God" (descendents of Seth), who married and made affinity with the daughters of unbelieving men (descendants of Cain) before the flood (Gen. 6:1-4). This is clear from Josephus, who first refers to the descendants of Seth, saying they obeyed God for seven generations, but then calls them "angels" and says they apostatized from God by marrying (unbelieving) women.[3] 

Peter thus says that, for their apostasy, these "angels" were judged as sinners and imprisoned in "hell" until judgment day.  The word "hell" in this passage is the Greek term "Tartarus." Tartarus was a place in Sheol or Hades reserved for the souls of the wicked pending final judgment.  There was also a place for the righteous, which the Greeks and Romans called "Elysium," but the scriptures call "Paradise." Jesus told the thief on the cross "this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Lk. 24:43).  Yet, we read elsewhere that Jesus' spirit went to Sheol/Hades at death (Acts 2:27; Ps. 16:8-11; cf. Jn. 20:17; II Cor. 12:3).  These two places in Hades are depicted in Lk. 16:19-31, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, where Paradise is called "Abraham's bosom" (v.22).  Why the Bible uses the Greek term Tartarus, but not the term Elysium, is unclear. Perhaps it was to avoid any appearance of complete equivalence between pagan notions of the afterlife, and the true estate and fate of the dead.  Greeks and Romans believed in reincarnation, in which the souls of the dead were born anew into earthly life, with new bodies and new identities, following a sojourn of 1,000 years in Hades.[4]  However, the Bible teaches resurrection, in which the identity of the dead is preserved unto its final reward.

Revelation Twenty & the 1st Resurrection 

Since the topic of Sheol/Hades has come up, it is appropriate to pause momentarily to discuss the "first resurrection."  In Revelation twenty, the dragon is bound in the bottomless pit (Tartarus) for 1000 years (Rev. 20:1-3).  The beast is also depicted as being in the bottomless pit, whence it follows the two were confined and released together (Rev. 11:7; 17:8).  A group of saints, who have been beheaded for their testimony of Christ, are also depicted as living and reigning with Christ for 1000 years (Rev. 20:4).  This 1000 year reign of the saints is called the "1st resurrection" (vv. 4, 5). We have written extensively about this symbolism elsewhere, so we will not go into that here.  However, it seems beyond dispute that the dragon, beast, and martyrs are portrayed by John as being in Hades. Indeed, there is no other possibility, as no one entered heaven until the resurrection of the last day, which does not occur until the 1000 year periods are over (vv.11-15). Hence, there is no place else the martyrs can be than Hades Paradise.  This is in keeping with Jesus' teaching in Matt. 22:31-32: 

"But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." 

This passage makes clear that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not dead, but were already participating in a resurrection of some sort or fashion. Since the resurrection Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob experienced was not the general resurrection of the last day, it can only have been the "1st resurrection," which John describes in Revelation. Moreover, since Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob also were clearly in Sheol/Hades, it follows that the 1st resurrection describes the life of the righteous dead in Paradise. Add to this the fact that Greco-Roman notions of Hades says that the dead sojourned there 1000 years, and the above conclusion becomes irresistible.  The connection of the passage with Greco-Roman notions of Hades was noted by the famous French skeptic, Voltaire: 

"The belief in this reign of a thousand years was long prevalent among the Christians. This period was also in great credit among the Gentiles. The souls of the Egyptians returned to their bodies at the end of a thousand years; and, according to Virgil, the souls in purgatory were exorcised for the same space of time—et mille per annos."[5] 

That the 1st resurrection was of the soul in the spiritual realms says something about the nature of the general resurrection.  If the 1st resurrection occurred beyond the realm of time and space unobserved by eye of man, is there reason to believe the general resurrection would be different? The soul goes from Hades to heaven, not back to earth. This leads to our examination of the individual/physical body view. 

The Individual/Physical Body View 

The individual/physical body view holds that the resurrection consists in the reunion of the spirit with the self -same physical body inhabited before death.  This was the view of many Jews in Jesus' day.  We learn this from the question poised by the Sadducees to Christ.  The Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, put a hypothetical question to Jesus about the resurrection, in which a woman was widowed seven times by seven brothers, asking whose wife she would in the resurrection, since all seven had her?  (Matt. 22:23-33). Since the Sadducees denied the resurrection and the question was contrived to make the resurrection appear ridiculousness, it is clear that the facts assumed in the question reflect the views of their contemporaries, probably the Pharisees. Specifically, the hypothetical assumes that the resurrection involves restoring to life physical bodies upon earth, thus raising the prospect of marriage.  We saw part of Jesus' answer, above. Here is his response in whole: 

"Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.  But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Matt. 22:30-32 

Jesus' teaching in this passage is that the resurrection occurs, not in the physical, but in the spiritual realm, where angels dwell, thus obviating the possibility of marriage. Angels, by definition, are immortal, intangible, and immaterial. They are spirit, not flesh.  This is seen in Heb. 2:14-16, where man's flesh and blood body is contrasted with that of angels: 

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." 

The writer here distinguishes the children of earth and the angels in heaven by their bodies, the one being flesh and blood, the other not. Since in the resurrection we will be as angels, it is plain that it is not the physical body of flesh that is raised, but the spirit, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who had been raised and dwelt in Hadean Paradise. 

Those who argue for a resurrection of the flesh argue that Jesus' resurrection is the type and pattern of our resurrection and that to deny the resurrection of our flesh is to deny the resurrection of Christ. An example of this argument is made by Kenneth Gentry Jr. “If Christ was physically raised from the dead, then so shall we, for He is the "first-fruits" of our resurrection. The only way around our physical resurrection is to deny Christ's physical resurrection.”[6]   Does it follow from Christ's resurrection being physical, that ours necessarily must be physical?  The resurrection of Jesus' flesh had been predicted by the Psalmist: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." (Ps. 16:8; Acts 2:25, 26).  Isaiah made similar predictions: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise."  Isa. 26:19.  During his earthly ministry, Jesus, too, made repeated predictions about his resurrection with specific reference to his physical body (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Jn. 2:21).  None of this is true of us. Not one verse exists that states the resurrection consists in raising dead bodies.  A review of verses relied upon by proponents of the physical body view will show that this is true. 

Verses Relied upon by the Physical Body View

Job 19:25, 26:  “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

This is the only verse in the Bible that makes reference to the flesh in apparent connection with the resurrection.  However, the Hebrew of this verse is so obscure and ambiguous that scholars cannot decide how it is to be translated.  The marginal reading gives the rendering, “After I shall awake, though this body be destroyed, yet out of my flesh...” etc.  In other words, two renderings, exactly opposite in meaning, can be sustained by the original tongue.  Thus, it cannot be determined with certainty what Job actually stated or said.  Given that this is the only place in scripture referring to the flesh in the context of the supposed resurrection, we would be well advised to opt for the alternate rendering.  At the very least, standing as it does alone, and more especially in view of the poetic nature of the book, no essential doctrine of scripture can be built upon it.

Isa. 26:19:  “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.  Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”

This passage does not teach the physical resurrection of believers.  Jesus' "dead body" is the only one mentioned in the passage. Those that "dwell in dust" refer to the spirits of the dead in Sheol/Hades, which was portrayed as a cavernous realm beneath earth's surface. The earth casting out its dead therefore does not speak to the bodies of the dead, but their spirits in Hades.

Jno. 5:28, 29:  “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

As with Isa. 26:19, no physical bodies are mentioned in this text.  All Jesus says is that those in the graves will come forth.  Jesus did not say they would come forth on this side of eternity.  Daniel made the like statement, saying, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2).  This language is obviously poetic: The dead do not “sleep” in the earth; their spirits go to Hades (Lk. 24:43; cf. 16:19-31). Hence, the idea of “waking” from the dust is merely accommodative; it points to a coming day of salvation when the death would be vanquished and man go to his long home with God and Christ in heaven. 

Rom. 8:11:  “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.”

“Quickening” our mortal bodies does not refer to the resurrection of the body, but the regenerative effects of God’s spirit in man by the mortification of the flesh.  “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”  (Rom. 8:13; cf. Gal. 5:24)  This is the more apparent in that in the immediately preceding verse Paul says “the body is dead because of sin.”  (Rom. 8:10)  The saints at Rome were not dead and their bodies were not dead either; the apostle is merely using a figure of speech.  As the source of fleshly lusts, the body is spiritually “dead.”  But by being brought into subjection to the Spirit, the body is figuratively quickened and made an instrument of righteousness. Peter says substantially the same thing:  “For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” (I Pet. 4:1)  In other words, just as man’s spirit is quickened and made alive by the new birth (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13), so the body is “quickened” as it is brought into subjection to God’s spirit and its lusts mortified. 

Rom. 8:23:  “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

The "redemption of our body" refers to receipt of our immortal body in heaven.  The passage may be likened to Jeremiah's purchase (redemption) of his uncle's field just before the nation went into captivity.  The ownership of the land was witnessed and sealed unto Jeremiah, but its possession and enjoyment were postponed until the nation returned out of captivity (Jer. 32:10-44).  In the same way, our inheritance has been purchased for us by Christ, and we have the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts, whereby we cry "Abba, Father," showing that we are putative heirs of eternal life (Rom. 8:15-17).  The "redemption of our body" is the point at which we come into possession of eternal life and receive our immortal bodies. There is no mention of physical bodies in the passage.

Phil. 3:20, 21:  “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”

This verse shows that, in the resurrection, we will receive glorified bodies like that received by Christ at his ascension.  Although raised in his mortal body, Jesus received a glorified body when he "ascended up far above all heavens that he might fill all things" (Eph. 4:10). To gain a sense of that glorified body, we may look to Revelation, where Jesus appeared to John (Rev. 1:12, 17). The corruptible body is put off in death and replaced by a glorious body in the resurrection of life.  The glorified body is not physical, but spiritual, unbounded by time and space.

I Thess. 4:16:  “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”

We need only note that physical bodies are not mentioned.  The dead resided in Hades and it is from thence that they are called forth to join the Lord in heaven. The idea that they must first return to earth and physicality before going on to heaven is absurd. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 15:50).

These are all the verses relied upon by those advocating the physical body of the resurrection. As we have seen, none of the verses actually teaches that the dead return to their physical bodies in the resurrection. 

The Collective/Mystical Body View

This view has traces going back as early as 1845, when Robert Townley wrote his book The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ a Past Event (London, 1845).[7] The modern proponent of this view is Max King, who made it popular during the 1970-80's, whence it still boasts a significant following stemming from this source.  It is worth noting that both Townley and King were led into Universalism by this view.  Essentially, proponents of this view hold that all men were concluded under sin by the Mosaic Law. Hence, by removal of the Mosaic Law it follows that all men are justified.  In the words of Tim King, Max King's son: 

“Simply stated, man is changed because his world changed. Man is reconciled to God because he no longer lives under the rule of sin and death as determined by the Mosaic world. Through the gift of Christ he dwells in a world of righteousness and life. The issue is cosmic and corporate, not individual and limited."[8] 

There are several passages in the New Testament, which use the singular "body" in the context of the resurrection, which proponents of this view interpret in reference to the collective body of the church. The church is the mystical "body of Christ" (Eph. 1:22, 23).  Thus, "redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23) and "will change our vile body" (Phil. 3:21) are supposed to refer to the collective body of believers. The "redemption" and "change" is thought to be justification from sin.  Proponents of the Collective Body View believe that the Mosaic Law was the power of death and man was in the "grave of Judaism" while the law prevailed.  They hold that the resurrection of the dead refers primarily to the change from the Jewish system to the gospel, which they believe occurred in AD 70.  Thus, by this view, the Old Testament is thought to have remained in force from the cross until the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, when the law was finally taken out of the way, and the church finally justified.  Hence, this view "spiritualizes" the resurrection, treating it as a thing legal and covenantal, not actual or personal.  The eschatological resurrection was not individual spirits being freed from Hades, but the collective body of the church being justified from sin.   

However, this view is completely untenable. The singular "body" is merely an anomaly or peculiarity of speech and does not signify the collective body of the church is in view.  If someone said "when we all get to heaven we'll get a new body" would that mean one body?  Of course it wouldn't; use of the collective merely points to the common nature of the body inhabited on earth, and the common nature of the body we each will receive in heaven.  The mystical body of Christ, the church, is never represented as being in a condition of death or the grave at any time in scripture.  Where the metaphor of Christ's mystical body is used to describe the church, it is always represented as being raised up and in a glorified condition (Eph. 1:20-23; 2:6; 4:10-12).  How could Christ be in heaven at the right hand of God, but his mystical body be in the grave of Judaism or under the power of sin?  Obviously, this makes no sense.  What legal and covenantal "resurrection" from sin does occur is received at conversion and baptism, not AD 70. 

"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."  Col. 2:13, 14; cf. Rom. 6:3-6 

Hence, the basic assumption of the Collective Body View that men continued under the Old Law and debt of sin until AD 70, and that the atonement was not complete until the second coming, is hopelessly at odds with scripture.  There are dozens and dozens of verses, which show that the atonement was complete and believers were fully justified from and after the cross.  

Not one verse exists that shows the saints remained under the debt of sin until AD 70, or that they were only then justified. Moreover, the idea that the law was still valid after the cross is contradicted by innumerable passages of scripture and not one verse showing it was still valid can be produced.  

The Spiritual/Individual Body View 

This view is the one we feel alone is scripturally defensible.  Prior to the general resurrection, the spirits or souls of the dead went to the Hadean realm.  John mentions the "second death."  This is set over against the "first resurrection" (Rev. 20:5, 6).  There is a first and second death, and a first and second resurrection.  The first death is the death of the body, physical death. The second death is the eternal destruction of the soul or spirit in Gehenna (cf.  II Thess. 1:9, 10 - "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints"). The first resurrection is the spirit in Hades Paradise; the second resurrection is receipt of eternal life in heaven.  The second coming would mark the time when Hades was destroyed and the soul received its eternal reward. John depicts this in Revelation by the following imagery (Rev. 20:11-15):

  11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Here is the resurrection associated with Christ's second coming.  The whole transaction occurs on the other side of eternity, in the realm of the spirit before the throne of Christ (cf. II Cor. 5:10).  The resurrection is portrayed as consisting in the spirits of the dead raised from Hades and the "the sea."  In the symbolism of Revelation, the "sea" points to heathendom, the realm of the Greeks and assorted peoples inhabiting the Mediterranean world beyond the land of Israel.  It thus symbolizes geographically what the bottomless pit portrays spiritually; viz., those that die out of covenant relationship with God. Hence, the "sea" equals "Tartarus."  Notice that, in the conception of the passage, "death and Hades" are a union.  Hades cannot exist without death, nor could death exist without Hades. The last enemy to be destroyed was death (I Cor. 15:26). Not physical death, but death as it has existed from the time of man's fall as a place of separation from God; i.e., Hadean death.  In speaking of the resurrection, Paul thus says "O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?"  (I Cor. 15:55).  In other words, the resurrection marked the time when Hadean death was destroyed and the soul was admitted into the presence of God in heaven.  

Verses Supporting the Individual/Spiritual Body View

Jno. 3:5-7:  “Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

This verse shows that there are two natures: one belonging to the kingdom of heaven, one belonging to the earth.  The earthly nature and body do not enter the kingdom of God, the inner man of the spirit does.

Jno. 4:24:  “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

This verse is dispositive of the idea that physical bodies have any part of the heavenly kingdom.  In Lk. 24:38, Jesus said “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.”  Since God is a Spirit, and spirits do not have flesh and bones, it is axiomatic that God does not have flesh and bone.  Christ is now a Spirit.  (I Cor. 15:45; II Cor. 3:17) In the resurrection, Christians are to be made like unto Christ and God.  (Ps. 17:15; Rom. 8:29; I Cor. 15:49)  Hence, we will be spirit-beings without flesh and bone.

Jno. 6:63:  “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.”

The flesh profits nothing in terms of man’s redemption, sanctification, and salvation.  It is suitable only for dwelling upon earth, where life is bounded by time and space and consigned to corruption.  It is the spirit that is quickened and receives eternal life, not the flesh.

I Cor. 5:5:  “Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

“Destruction” of the flesh here is best understood in terms of its mortification by denying its affections and lusts.  By excommunicating unrepentant members overtaken in sin, they may be brought to shame and repentance, leading to the denial and destruction of the flesh.  By thus “crucifying the flesh” (Gal. 5:24), the spirit is restored to purity, suitable unto salvation.  The flesh is expressly excluded from the spirit’s salvation.

I Cor. 15:35-37: "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain."

Here is Paul's most direct teaching on the topic of the resurrection body: That which thou sowest thou sowest not that body that shall be." When we plant a seed, it is not the body that is raised. A bare grain of wheat is planted, but another body, bearing no resemblance to the other, is raised up.  The seed bears the germ of the new life. In the same way, the physical body bears the germ (spirit) of man, which is the subject of the resurrection. The hull of the seed is left behind; the tender green plant comes forth. So with us, the hull of flesh is left behind, and the spirit emerges wafted away to ethereal realms above.

I Cor. 15:44, 49, 50:  “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body…As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.  Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” 

Here are several plain statements that set the earthly and fleshly body over against the spiritual and heavenly body.  The image of the earthy consists in a natural, fleshly body and carnal mind.  The image of the heavenly consists in a regenerated mind and an immaterial body.  The natural and material body of earth is corruptible; the heavenly and immaterial body of the spirit is incorruptible.  The promise of the resurrection is of an immaterial body, like unto Christ and the angels of God in heaven (Matt. 22:25; Heb. 2:14-16).

II Cor. 4:16-18:  “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not see: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

The material is visible and temporal; the immaterial is invisible and eternal.  Although the outward and material man perishes, the inward, immaterial man is renewed day by day.  The body will perish, but the spirit will inherit eternal life.

II Cor. 5:1:  “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Our “earthly house” refers to our mortal bodies of flesh; “this tabernacle” also refers to our physical bodies (II Pet. 1:14).  Dissolution of our earthly house speaks to putting off the body in death.  The “building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” speaks to our immortal, immaterial, and spiritual bodies.  These are received and enjoyed in heaven.

II Cor. 5:2, 3:  “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.  If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.”

In the resurrection, we are clothed with our immaterial and immortal house from heaven, not our fleshly, mortal bodies of earth. “Naked” speaks to putting off the body of flesh in death; “clothed” speaks to putting on the spiritual body in the resurrection of life.

II Cor. 5:6-8:  “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith not by sight:)  We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”

Could the apostle have made it plainer?  We would be absent from the body of flesh that we might be at home with the Lord.  If, in the resurrection we are reunited with the body, we will be at home in the body and absent from the Lord!  Clearly, that is no part of the Christian’s hope.

II Cor. 5:10:  "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."

This verse, following hard upon the heels of those going before, which so clearly proclaim that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, makes clear that in the judgment men will not be clothed with houses of clay.  That they are to receive the things done while in the body clearly implies that at the judgment they would be in the body no more.  They have passed from this life and put off their bodies of clay and gone to be judged for the things done while still in the flesh.

Gal. 3:3:  “Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

Those who hold that the “spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb. 12:23) must be reunited with the flesh to be complete and inherit eternal life, fall under the like condemnation Paul reproaches the Galatians with.   The completion of man’s salvation is the union of spirit with God in heaven, not being newly clothed upon with bodies of clay.

Heb. 12:23:  “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.”

The spirits of the righteous who died before Christ were not wanting bodies, but atonement.  With the “blood of sprinkling” (v. 22) they were made wholly perfect and the way into heaven opened to them.  What need have they of fleshly bodies seeing they are already perfect? 

I Pet. 4:6:  “For for this cause was the gospel preached also unto them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

This verse seems to speak to the saints of prior ages who had the gospel preached to them in the types and similitudes of the Old Law.  Although condemned by law according to men in the flesh, they were justified by the atoning blood of Christ that they might live according to God in the spirit.  To be reunited with bodies of clay is no part of the divine purpose.


The resurrection is not of the flesh, but the spirit. The general resurrection consisted in the release of souls from Hades at Christ's second coming.  For those on this side of the eschaton, the spirit is given an immortal body from heaven at death, like that of the angels, suited to ethereal realms of heaven above. 

[7] "Now we are of the opinion that the expression, ‘there is a natural body,’ may be predicated most justly of the Jewish body of worship, which body was then in existence in all its primitive force, when the apostle indited I Cor. XV., as much as when Moses indited the book of Leviticus….We know that the apostle was a Hebrew of Hebrews: and we apprehend, therefore, that when he expresses his soul’s desire, “O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of death,” he is speaking in reference to the Jewish worship, which was the ministration of condemnation and death…we apprehend, moreover, that when he speaks of an earthly house of this tabernacle being dissolved, of a groaning, being burdened, and such like, his mind is still upon the worship under the law; for it may well be asked, how can he speak of human bodies of clay as houses builded with hands?”  Robert Townley, The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ a Past Event (London, 1845), 119

 "The mystical body of Christ, say we, was a natural body, at that time, as far as its ordinances, its officers, its gifts, prophesying, tongues, healing, helps, and governments were concerned.  All these were, if the expression may be allowed, borrowed from the Jewish body of worshipThat body was to give way to a spiritual body…the old covenant administration of death, which in Paul’s day was shaken and ready to vanish, should entirely disappear – then should be brought to pass the saying that was written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  Robert Townley, The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ a Past Event (London, 1845), 120 

"The Apostle, when he writes, 'we all,' is discoursing of the one body which Christ had reconciled, of which he has many things to say to these Corinthian believers.  The change which he intimates is not any remodeling, any alteration, any glorifying of the natural bodies of these believers, but it is a change from the ministration of condemnation and death, of which he speaks in the former verses of the chapter, to the ministration of righteousness and life; or, in other words, from the first inferior and temporal covenant, which was added because of the Adam transgression, to the second superior and spiritual covenant."  Robert Townley, The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ a Past Event (London, 1845), p. 91


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